One Really Big Show
Maine Times
August 17, 2000

In what is being billed as "the biggest and the boldest" exhibition in Maine Coast Artists' 48-year history, co-curators Bruce Brown
and John Chandler have undertaken the daunting task of surveying the history of photography in Maine with a pair of back-to-back
exhibitions. 'Photographing Maine I 1840-2000' is an epic curatorial endeavor and an exhibition of historic importance which,
because of sheer volume, required breaking the show into two.

The first installment focuses on images from the past 50 years, the second on vintage prints from 1840 to 1950. Even with just on
image by each of 132 photographers in Part 1, the two teetering floors and stairwells of the Rockport gallery overflow with
pictures - places and things on the ground floor, people on the second.

The photographs range from pinhole views, to straight black and white and color prints, to digital images. The photographers
range from the world-famous - Berenice Abbott, Paul Caponigro, Arnold Newman, Eliot Porter, Paul Strand, Todd Webb, William
Wegman - to the brand new - Scott Peterman, Chris Pinchbeck, Phillip Reidar Pisclotta, Spencer Tunik. These last four were for
me the pick of the pack. Scott Peterman is represented by a glorious large format cibachrome of an ice fishing shack on Long Lake
which discovers a strange beauty in such an unpromising subject. Chris Pinchbeck turned his truck Into a pinhole camera to make a
haunting color panorama of trees and flowers in the Lincolnville woods. Phillip Reldar Pisclotta makes a holy man of a naked,
dread-locked young man seated between windows through which glimpses of suburban Maine can be seen. And Spencer Tunik
contributes what may be the largest and most arresting image in the show, a 50 x 60 inch silver print of 1,200 Phish fans reclining
nude on the tarmac of the old Loring Air Force Base. I think each of these images appeals to me primarily because they are so

What you expect to see in a Maine photography show are landscapes, and there are many excellent landscape images here, some of
the best by John Paul Caponigro Donald DuBose Duncan, Sara Gray, Dirk McDonnell, Melville McLean and Craig Stevens. There
are also elegant interior images by Tillman Crane, Abelardo Morell and Brian Vanden Brink. Portraiture, however, is probably the
show's strongest suit. Sean Harris' portrait of a Portland dancer is from his series on Maine's African-American community. Jocelyn
Lee counters the cult of youth with a big, gorgeous unframed color image of a naked older woman sitting on an unmade bed. Jack
Montgomery captures history, humanity and compassion in his portrait of a Holocaust survivor. Sa Schloff shoots sculptor Zdeno
Mayercak in an attempt to make him look, like figure from the past. And David Stess and Barbara Goodbody both contribute
portraits of blueberry rakers. There is also a clutch of artist portraits, including George Daniell's silhouette of John Marin, Arnold
Newman's picture of Mary Ellen Mark, Phil Rogers' soulful image of painter Kathy Bradford, and William Thuss' portrait of
painter Cicely Aikman. The documentary/photojournalist contingent is nominally led by Berenice Abbott's group portrait of men
hanging out on the steps of Milliken's General Store and Kosti Ruohomaa's nocturne of a house on Monhegan. But Tonee Harbert's
1988 image of the grimacing and wild-eyed George and Barbara Bush greeting well-wishers in Kennebunkport might just be the
best documentary photograph ever made in Maine. Then there's Peter Shellenberger's deeply disturbing image of a slack-jawed
teen-ager holding a pistol at an Old Orchard Beach arcade, Christopher Ayres' aerial view of a ring of schoolchildren on a
playground, Benjamin Magro's wild little picture of Ken Cianchette flying an open cockpit plane, John Eide's memorial
documentary about stone cutters on Dix Island, Paul D'Amato's heart-breakingly sensitive portrait of a young girl in church on
Peaks Island, Madeleine de Sinety's action-packed picture of logger Matt Lord working in the woods with horses, and Jay York's
cockeyed backyard snapshot-of a family cookout, a scene he seems to have literally peeled from reality and plastered on the gallery

Photography is all time and light, stillness and motion, and some of the photographers, notably AndreStrong, James Moore, John
McKee, and Mark Emerson, use motion to create strobe abstractions and drive-by landscapes. Others Tad Beck and Tanja
Hollander - make achingly poetic use of film's ability to diffuse and melt images into color. They paint with their cameras.
Rose Marasco, here represented by a picture of an open book set on a snow-covered lawn, is probably the most accomplished
photo-artist in the show, but then there are artists I don't tend to think of as photographers - Dozier Bell, Alan Magee, Katarina
Weslien - who use photography in service of their art.

What "Photographing Maine" reveals is the progress of photography over the past half century. In all honesty, I cannot see that the
work of the famous and established photographers in the show is in any obvious way more interesting, more beautiful or more
powerful than the work of the new generation. In several cases, it is less so. There has been a photo-flowering in Maine and the
students have surpassed their masters.

The exhibition's attempt at inclusiveness invites second-guessing. While everyone will have his or her own list of photographers
who should have been included (mine runs to eight or nine overlooked individuals), I think it is fair to say that no one could have
done a better or more Comprehensive job. I do wonder, however, at the failure to include Abbie Sewall, whose book The Voice of
Maine is one of the best collections of Maine character portraits ever. Photographs by Abbie Sewall's wall's
great-great-grandmother Emma D. Sewall will be featured In Part II of the exhibition. “Photographing Maine 1840-2000" is
accompanied by an 80-page catalogue that will, no doubt, become the starting point for some future photo-historian to undertake
the definitive study of the camera's monocular view of Maine.