Category On Assignment

Client Work: People and Spaces, reimagined

Dunham Group

I recently wrapped up an ad campaign for NAI The Dunham Group in Maine that I’m so happy to be able to share.

If you were to look through my portfolio you’d find…people.  Portraits, candid moments, people doing interesting things.    I’m often called on to photograph locations and spaces for my clients, as well—everything from straight architectural views to images that show spaces being used—lived in, enjoyed, worked in.    While architectural work is technically challenging and I enjoy making images that showcase the feel and mood of a space, I loved this campaign for The Dunham Group because it humanizes the spaces in a unique way.

The concept was to photograph marque properties in the Portland, Maine area in a way that showed how they integrate into the neighborhoods around them.  Instead of focusing on the buildings themselves, my idea was to show the way life—people—flowed around them.  The structures ended up being a key element of each image, but they served more as the backdrop to the activity and life that was the real focus of the image.  I worked with East Shore Studio and Print to conceive of and execute the plan, which involved shooting hundreds of images of the spaces and then compositing them together in an interesting way.

From my perspective, the results achieve the main goal of any image I make: to convey a certain feeling and a sense of context and connection.  Doing so  takes an image from just a static ‘beauty’ shot to something that tells a compelling story.

Here are a couple of the images from the now-complete campaign.   Enjoy!

Dunham Group

Arrested: Stories Behind the Badge

Maine Cops
Pete Herring, District Game Warden with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, photographed at Lake Arrowhead in Southern Maine.  Herring retrieved the drowned body of 15-year-old Jaden Dremsa in the lake after a nine-day search.  “It takes you out of the uniform of a game warden and into the clothes of a parent,” he said of the case. “The search united the community. It touched the whole community. Being able to watch the family process it, it helped me to process things too.”  Herring spent 18 years in the Maine Department of Corrections as a prison guard and an investigator before becoming a game warden in 2009.

I didn’t initially set out to photograph Maine cops.

As a newspaper photojournalist I spent years covering fatal car accidents, fires and the occasional armed standoff. My interactions with police were polite, professional and purely transactional. It’s fair to say that we viewed each other with a healthy wariness that at times seemed adversarial. My job as I saw it, on the behalf of the public’s right to know, was to make the images that would best tell the story. As far as I could tell at the time, a cop’s job was to thwart my ability to easily do so. To be fair, I imagine that to them I was a pain in the ass at best, an annoying gnat with a press pass. A problem that sometimes made their jobs a lot harder.

We coexisted, at times uneasily. I certainly encountered many officers who treated me fairly. They taught me a lot about professionalism and coolness under pressure. I realized: It takes a certain kind of person to put on a badge, strap a gun to their hip and patrol dark streets. Cops are like you and me, but they aren’t. They belong to a unique tribe of men and women that is often closed to outsiders. Whether seen as heros or opressors the reality is that a badge carries more weight than the metal it’s made of.

Maine Cops
“I had two goals at that point: I wanted to try to help this woman get out of this life and I wanted to find the guy that did this to her. I just thought to myself, this is supposed to be a peaceful place and it’s so isolated, dark, and pitch-black down here. She must have been scared to death.”
Detective Sgt. Steve Webster (ret.), a 30-year veteran of the South Portland police department, discussing an incident where a female prostitute was beaten by her john and left for dead among the gravestones at South Portland’s Forest City Cemetery.

Back in 2004, I was embedded with Army Reserve’s 737th Transportation Company in the Middle East. I found the soliders, wary of my presence at first, relaxed once they got to know me. The stories I wrote were less about what they did and why they did it—why they had made the choice to serve thousands of miles from home, to say goodbye to their families for months or years at a time. I enjoyed getting to know the people they were and no matter my personal thoughts on the war it changed my perspective on soliders—and by extension, cops—forever.

Years later, living in Maine, I met and photographed South Portland Detective Sgt. Steve Webster (now retired) for a book he’d written about a case involving a little girl who he’d promised to find justice for (he did). He handed me a signed copy of his book and I read it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, the idea of making portraits of officers at the exact locations where they had experienced life-changing, career-changing incidents was born.

I met with Webster and the idea gelled further. He encouraged me to expand the idea—to photograph officers from various types of agencies across the geographic span of the state.

“The biggest problem you’ll have,” he said, “is that cops don’t like to talk.” That was an understatement. He agreed to introduce me to Pete Herring, a Maine Warden. Pete introduced me to York County Deputy Steven Thistlewood. And one opened the door for another, as slowly I met and photographed officers from Acton to Ashland.

It remains an incomplete project. There are 146 law enforcement agencies in Maine, employing more than 2500 police officers, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies.

I’ve photographed less than a dozen.

I’ve had conversations with them about events that happened months or in many cases years before, but it might have been yesterday. The trauma is still fresh, the wound still raw: moments where time is measured in milliseconds and layered with sound, color and smell. Winslow Chief Shawn O’Leary recalls the moment he fired at a man threatening him with a knife, the slide of his weapon ejecting spent casings and smoke as if in super slow motion; the billowing puffs of the man’s shirt as the rounds impacted. One. Two. Three.

Maine Cops
Shawn O’Leary, Chief of Police for Winslow, Maine. O’Leary started his career as a patrol officer in Brunswick, Maine and eventually retired as a lieutenant. He later worked as a captain for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department before becoming Winslow’s police chief in 2014.
In 1997, O’Leary shot and killed a man who attacked him with a knife. Later he was sued by the man’s family.
“I felt that the experience made me grow even though it was really hard. I think the toughest things that you go through in life make you stronger, and I’m a fighter. I hit some deep low places for some years with my career and with my wife and my kids. But I (wasn’t) going to let the bastard win. I think I also owed it to everybody that was still [in the police department] because in the event that it happened again, I’d be there.”
I chose to photograph them in the same locations where the painful or meaningful events happened to them—either the same spot or as close to them as possible. Forest Ranger Bill Greaves stands on the gravelly outline where the trailer once stood that housed the man who shot him and a deputy in 1989. Marine Patrol Corrie Roberts sways on the deck of her bobbing patrol boat, the Protector, yards from the spot where she leapt onto the deck of a runway lobster boat whose owner had died of a heart attack at the helm.

Sgt. Steven Thistlewood wipes tears from his eyes on the spot where 12 years earlier—almost to the day—he and his partner shot and killed a man who was trying his best to end their lives. It’s the first time he’s revisited the site.

Maine Warden Pete Herring braces himself in a blowing snowstorm on the shores of Lake Arrowhead, where months earlier he had recovered the body of a drowned teenager.

All of these men and women have incredible stories, each tied indelibly to the places in Maine where they happened. Each story, and each officer is as unique and varied as the geography of this state.

It’s my hope that seeing the stories and viewing the images will give a better connection to, and understanding of, the men and women who put their bodies and lives on the line for the public good.

Cops are people, which means there are good ones and bad ones. Lucky and unlucky ones. But read the stories and look at the portraits and ask yourself: if you wore that badge and were in their shoes, what would you have done?

To see the images, please click here.

Maine Cops
“That’s the thing about law enforcement officers. We file things. I have seen, smelled and touched so many things that people could never imagine. We just file it. We deal with it. At some point it starts to eat at you.” ⠀ ⠀ Sgt. Steven Thistlewood has spent 18 years with the York County Sheriff’s Department. He found himself reflecting on an incident in 2003 when he was forced to use deadly force on a mentally-ill man attacking him with a gun. “I grew up wanting to be a flight paramedic. That was what I was going to do. You know—save lives—and here I (was) taking a life.” ⠀ ⠀ Part of a photo project on Maine law officers and the hazards they encounter on duty.

Showcase: GMRI

GMRI

I’m excited to share a small project I worked on last year with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), based in Portland, ME.

I’m used to working with education clients, but GMRI is unique. They manage to blend their missions of performing world-class science and cultivating scientific literacy, all while working with Maine’s coastal communities whose economies rely on Maine’s coastal fisheries.

The institute’s facility stands along a stretch of Portland’s working waterfront.  It’s a busy stop for fifth-grade schoolchildren from around Maine who experience the hands-on, high-tech lab known as LabVenture.  Meanwhile, researchers collect samples of acquatic life in Casco Bay, do cutting-edge research on the marine ecosystem, and work with fishermen, retailers, restaurateurs and others whose livelihood depends upon the health of the coastal waters.

GMRI

Client Showcase: Architectural Images for Zachau Construction

maine architectural images

I’m happy to show off architectural images I recently completed for Freeport, ME-based Zachau Construction, a builder of some very cool and unique properties in Maine and elsewhere.

The wide-ranging project included architectural imagery of some of their projects to showcase on their website.  Some of the images involved photographing people in the environment and others were more ‘straight’ architecture.

Now that the work has been published, I can release some of it here. I really enjoy the technical challenges inherent in doing this kind of work for my clients.

 

maine architectural images

 

 

maine architectural images

 

maine architectural images

 

maine architectural images

 

maine architectural images

A Healing Place: The Dempsey Center

healing This spring and summer I had the pleasure of working with the amazing Dempsey Center in Lewiston, Maine. The non-profit provides wellness and other support services to those whose lives have been touched by cancer—providing everything from wig-fittings to counseling to classes on topics like healthy cooking and yoga. It’s an amazing, healing place. Cancer has touched me and my family in very direct and personal ways, and so I was even more eager to find out how the Dempsey Center works and how it changes the lives of the many people who come through its doors.

healing

Once I was there, photographing, I realized that the space itself was as important as many of the wellness activities they offer. It’s a peaceful place of healing, with spaces to sit alone or with others, and plenty of quiet places for meditation and reflection.

As a photographer, it was an important reminder that the location and setting are a critical part of the story.

As I worked to tell the story of the Dempsey Center, I met and interacted with many of their staff and clients. It was truly inspiring to meet these folks and to hear their personal stories—all unique, all extremely personal.

It’s my hope that these images capture at least some of the feel of the Dempsey Center and of the wonderful people who work and heal there. Head over to Fitzgerald Photo to check out more images.

healing

Pho-tastic: Cong Tu Bot

The Portland food scene keeps getting better and better.

This fall I was fortunate enough to photograph Cong Tu Bot, a Vietnamese restaurant owned by Vien Dobui and Jessica Sheahan, published in the November issue of Down East Magazine and written by Food Editor Joe Ricchio (years ago, Joe was also involved in one of my favorite shoots of all time, involving a bottle of white wine and a Russian Ural sidecar motorcycle).  But, I digress.

Back to Cong Tu Bot.

The colors of the walls, the plastic chairs and the decor makes it feel like you’re walking into a food stall in Saigon.  The food looks (and tastes) amazing too. Jessica and Vien, who are married as well as business partners,  operated several pop-up Asian noodle bars in Portland, honing their offerings, before opening Cong Tu Bot.   Their dedication and experience definitely shows.

So pick up a copy of the latest Down East to read more.  Better yet,  just cut to the chase, and get over to Cong Tu Bot.

 

cong tu bot

cong tu bot

 

 

 

Bluet Winery for Down East Magazine

A finished bottle of sparkling blueberry wine from Bluet Winery.

 

 

The thing I love most about the work I do, without a doubt, is the chance to meet interesting people doing interesting things.

Michael Terrien and Eric Martin are childhood friends who moved West from Maine.  Both worked in California, learning how to make wine in Napa Valley.  Martin, a novelist, moved to North Carolina while Terrien remained in the California wine industry.  They remained close friends over the decades and last year partnered to create the Bluet Winery.  I was assigned to photograph the pair for the July issue of Down East Magazine, and headed to the winery in Jefferson, Maine.

On that cold, icy day, Terrien and Martin were “disgorging”—or removing sediment and yeast from  bottles of their wild blueberry sparkling wine—in the cave-like cellar of a 1820s barn.   It was interesting and cool, but dark, cramped and cold.    The only light came from two narrow windows set along one wall, and from a few work lights strung from beams here and there.   This was the type of editorial assignment that required the creative use of strobes.   Due to space constraints, I ended up using off-camera speedlights almost exclusively.

You can see all of the photos in Down East, but I thought I’d include some visuals that weren’t included in the article.  When inspecting one of the dark bottles of finished wine, I held it up to a work light and saw that the wine had a deep, ruby red color.   I quickly set up a couple of strobes and, using the cellar stone walls as a backdrop, made a hero image of the wine bottle on the work bench that highlighted the intense red hues of the wine.

I love working fast in these kinds of dynamic environments.  It’s a good example of having a basic plan, but being nimble enough to adjust to the realities on location.   In all my years of photographing wine in the Yakima Valley, I’ve never photographed the disgorging process (video below).   Along with the scars and scratches on my camera body, I’m sure there’s some dried blueberry wine, serving as a reminder of my visit to Bluet.

 

 

 

 

Michael Terrien exits the cellar in the 1820s barn where his blueberry wine is made. Brian Fitzgerald/Fitzgerald Photo

 

Sealing a wine barrel for storage by burning a thin strip of sulfer inside.  Brian Fitzgerald/Fitzgerald Photo

 

Preparing to disgorge yeast and sediment from a bottle of Bluet wine. Brian Fitzgerald/Fitzgerald Photo

 

Michael Terrien of Bluet Winery.  Brian Fitzgerald/Fitzgerald Photo

 

Interested in more of my work?  Check out my portfolio at Fitzgerald Photo.

 

 

 

Client Work: Catalyst Paper

 

Catalyst Paper

 

I’ve been working with North American printing paper manufacturer Catalyst Paper for a couple of years now to produce content for their annual sustainability reports. They operate paper mills across the United States and Canada, including one in Maine.

They put together beautiful materCatalyst Paperials that highlight the work the company is doing to better manage resources, be more efficient and safety-conscious. The images themselves tell a story about the connection the company fosters–with the communities they live in, the people that work at the plants, and with the environment that makes their products possible.

In other words, the story of Catalyst Paper has less to do with paper, and more to do with people, environment and community.

This kind of project illustrates perfectly the need to be able to solve the complex issues that come up often when doing location industrial photography: challenging lighting, last-minute changes to schedule and location, and a sometimes unpredictable and active environment in which to photograph.

In other words, I love it.

Below are some of the images taken for the project:

 

 

Catalyst Paper

 

Catalyst Paper

 

 

How to Make a Hero…out of a Truck

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

How do you make a hero out of a truck?

That was the question I was forced to ponder when I was hired by Pierce Manufacturing to photograph Fire Station One in Cambridge, Massachussetts last year.

The story was simple. The department was taking delivery of a brand-new fire rescue apparatus, built by Pierce, and the company wanted images that captured scenes of daily life at the station and in the surrounding community. They also wanted to showcase the gleaming hulk of steel and chrome on wheels that the department had just purchased.

I contacted the chief, Gerry Reardon, and explained that I wanted to follow his guys around for the better part of a day. Oh—and can I borrow your truck for a couple hours and potentially tie up traffic next to the station?  He mentioned something non-commital like, “we’ll see what we can do,” and we made plans to meet on the appointed day.

Then came the inevitable wrench in the works that always seems to happen when shooting on location. When I arrived, the firehouse was largely empty. The apparatus was nowhere to be found. Later we discovered it was parked across town, turning up just before we were slated to shoot. The chief was amenable to a portrait, but he wasn’t as receptive to portraits or photos of the crew. “They said you just needed photos of the truck,” he pointed out, not unkindly.

Somtimes you need to try a different tack. So I hastily revised my plans and beat a retreat to nearby Harvard campus. I photographed some of the more iconic views around the area and came back to the station just when the light was getting good. Late afternoon.

The crew had appeared, and the chief soon arrived with the new firetruck. Gleaming and gigantic, it looked too large for the small apron of asphalt in front of the station, bordered on both sides by busy roadways. I convinced them to take us to a nearby park for some daylight photos of the truck. When we returned, the sun was on its way to bed and it was time to set up for the shoot. While that was happening, I heard the strains of a bagpipe wafting out above the traffic, floating over Harvard University, located just across the street. It took me a minute to realize that one of the firefighters was upstairs on a balcony, playing to the setting sun. Not waiting to ask permission, I ran upstairs, through the living quarters to the balcony, and got a few frames before he finished.

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald

Back downstairs, we had time to set up the truck on the entry ramp to the station.  It blocked almost all of the truck bays. With busy roadways full of traffic and bicycles on either side, we set up eleven different lights, in and around the firetruck, and once the sun went down we made that truck look like a hero.

I love the final image of the apparatus, but my favorite shot from the evening was the stolen moment of the firefighter playing bagpipes into the evening. One day, one evening, two heros.

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald

Beauty, Revisited

ballerina_portlandco_01_by_brian_fitzgerald
The second in my series, “Beauty in Unexpected Places,” takes us to Building One of the Portland Company’s historic complex in Portland, Maine. Savannah Lee is a dancer with the Portland Ballet Company and is wearing a tutu from a production of the Nutcracker.

I love the look of the space, which contrasts so well with the intricate ballet costume. The challenge was to light enough of Savannah to set her apart from the environment. I also had to light key elements of the large space around her while not over lighting, in order to preserve the character and mood of the environment.

I think the best images happen when you let things happen, to some degree. Definitely a guiding motto is: “Set the stage, but let the pieces fall.” So we planned the lighting and envisioned the scenes, but I encouraged Savannah to move and perform as she felt appropriate. In the end, a great artistic collaboration in a historic part of Portland’s past.

With location shoots there’s always an unexpected wrinkle, and an unexpected gift—the gift that the photo gods give you when you show up, repeatedly, to do the creative work you should be doing. A few days before the shoot, the space was booked by the Portland Fire Dept. to do training drills. We arrived not knowing what portion of the space—if any—we’d be able to use, but were determined to make it work regardless. We showed up and the fire department didn’t, due to a last-minute schedule change (Had they done so, I’m guessing we would have somehow incorporated them into at least one shot). That was the gift. The wrinkle? The cavernous location was very, very cold, with a concrete floor—exactly the opposite of ‘ideal conditions’ for a professional dancer. Thanks, Savannah, for making it look easy and being a great sport. A true pro.

 

beauty revisited

beauty revisited

beauty revisited

beauty revisited

beauty revisited