Category Inspire Maine

Fighting Cancer with a Warrior Spirit

Trevor Maxwell
Trevor Maxwell, founder of Man Up to Cancer.  Cape Elizabeth, ME.
© Brian Fitzgerald.

Mostly we experience all three in succession—phases, rather than permanent states. That certainly seems to be true of my friend Trevor Maxwell, the founder of Man Up to Cancer, a support network to connect men dealing with the disease.

I’ve known Trevor since we both worked as journalists at the Portland Press Herald, now officially a Long Time Ago. At different points in time and independent of each other we both ended up leaving the paper, and our journalism careers, deciding to strike out on our own—me as a commercial photographer; Trevor as a communications and media consultant.

He discovered, like me, that with age comes inevitable physical changes and health challenges. Unlike me, he was faced with a true monster—a stage IV colon cancer diagnosis in 2018 at the age of 41.

As he related later, the diagnosis hit him hard, with depression so strong on top of the physical sickness that confined him to bed on most days. Eventually, he made a promise to his family that he would get the help he needed to regain his mental and physical health.

Trevor Maxwell
© Brian Fitzgerald

Two years later—and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, no less, Trevor launched Man Up To Cancer, along with a podcast that continues to grow and support men who, like Trevor, once felt isolated and alone in their struggle. The company’s howling wolf logo and tagline, “Open Heart, Warrior Spirit” speaks to Trevor’s approach, somewhat unique among cancer support groups that tend to be softer, more feminine and involve pink ribbons.

Clearly, Trevor has decisively moved into a phase of purposeful action, even as he continues treatment for his own cancer. 

I photographed Trevor this summer near the grand oak tree that has stood on his family’s Cape Elizabeth property for decades (check out the moving, beautiful tribute created by Roger McCord). I’m inspired by seeing how far Trevor has come and how he’s made it his mission to help others using his own unique talents and voice.

In normal times that would be something special. In 2020, it seems downright heroic.

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Read more about Man Up to Cancer or  subscribe to the Man Up to Cancer podcast.

 

Showcase: Portland Boxing Club

I’m fortunate that I get to meet a lot of very interesting and very cool people in the course of my daily work as a commercial photographer in Maine.  Every person has their own unique story and are fascinating in their own special way.  

Some just happen to work in environments that take ‘interesting’ to another level.  The Portland Boxing Club, a 1900s-era former wood-drying kiln set tucked behind Morrell’s Corner in Portland, is one such place. It’s there, enclosed by thick brick walls and floors of concrete, sweltering in the summer and freezing in winter, that Head Coach and owner Bob Russo has honed fighters of all ages and sexes for almost 30 years. On concrete and on the canvas, they strengthen their bodies and toughen their minds.

I’m excited to release this short video profile of Coach Russo. This was originally done as part of a larger piece on the gym for Inspire Maine several years ago but edited recently. Enjoy!

Inspired Mainers: Pat Gallant-Charette

Inspiring Mainer
Pat Gallant-Charette wears the names of two of her now-deceased brothers on her arm for every swim.

This week I published an Inspire Maine issue featuring Pat Gallant-Charette, a 65-year-old grandmother from Westbrook, ME. Some would say being a rockstar grandmother is inspiring enough—one that’s written her own children’s book, no less.

But that’s not the inspiring part. Gallant-Charette recently returned from the U.K., where she became the oldest person to successfully swim the North Channel. That’s the 21-mile stretch of freezing cold North Atlantic brine that separates Ireland from Scotland. At 65, Gallant-Charette was the oldest person to ever do the swim, by 13 years.

And that isn’t even the amazing part. This is one of five swims she’s completed as part of the “Oceans Seven”(No, that’s not a buddy movie).  It’s seven channels of water, from Japan to Hawaii to California…and the British Isles. To boot, Gallant-Charette finished the Strait of Gibraltar swim faster than any American woman since 1928.

To her grandkids, she’s just grandma who travels a lot. But trust me, she’s amazing and a nice person, too. I photographed her at Kettle Cove in September and we had a great time despite the windy, chilly day. I loved the images but even more, I loved getting to meet with Pat. So do yourself a favor and check out her full interview over at Inspire Maine. You’ll be glad you did.

Inspired Mainer
Pat Gallant-Charette, photographed at Kettle Cove in Maine. Being a Mainer helped her train for her marathon swimming success. “This is the best training ground outside of the North Channel and the English Channel,” she says.

 

Inspiring Maine
One of my favorite outtakes from the shoot, which I think looks best in black and white. I can imagine Pat swimming alone in the dark and the cold, but fueled by her bright, optimistic nature.

 

Inspiring Maine
The wind—constant on the Maine Coast—was buffeting us on the water, which meant we had to keep lighting simple. Fortunately, simple often means “dramatic”.

Faces of Portland: Sam Smith

Faces of Portland

The thing I most love about Portland is definitely the diverse, interesting people that it attracts. Creatives, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, free spirits.

Faces of PortlandI recently photographed Sam Smith, a blacksmith who operates the Portland Forge out of the old Portland Company complex on Fore Street.  All of the adjectives—creative, entrepreneur, craftsman, free spirit—apply.

Sam has a well-deserved reputation as an artist and a craftsman. When he’s not operating a portable anvil out of his van somewhere in Maine, or teaching workshops in Europe, he’s hammering steel in the dark corner of a former train locomotive foundry that dates back more than 150 years. By the way, that space, and much of the complex itself, will soon be part of Portland’s past. The city’s master plan proposes a 10-acre complex of condominiums and retail shops to occupy the space that these red brick, charmingly dilapidated buildings now occupy.

For now, Sam continues to work a forge that he created himself, in a small corner of Portland that—for now, thankfully—remains firmly rooted in the past.  Thanks, Sam, for letting me and my camera into your world for a little while.

Faces of Portland

Inspire ME with John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas, a very cold EntrepreneurOnFire.  Photo by Brian Fitzgerald
John Lee Dumas, a very cold EntrepreneurOnFire. Photo by Brian Fitzgerald

Way back in 2011 I launched Inspire Portland, a project showcasing (through portraits and interviews) inspiring and interesting people who choose to call Portland, ME home.    I planned it to last a year and so I closed it down in 2012–temporarily glad to move on to other things but sad to see it go.    When you get down to it, Inspire was a killer way to meet and spend time with all sorts of interesting people that I found fascinating.    The photos and the website?   Like icing on the cake.

Fast forward to 2014, just a short year ago now.   I had been getting occasional emails from people suggesting those they felt would make a good profile.  In my travels around Maine I realized that there were many more interesting people all over the state that I’d like to meet.   Inspire Maine was born.

This week I relaunched the project, albeit with a slightly different name.   My first victim is John Lee Dumas, who runs the crazy-popular EntrepreneurOnFire podcast and who, according to his website, generated income in November of $307,504.50.   Dollars.   I hate to be a numbers guy, but that’s pretty astounding.  Even more incredible is that he has more than 800 podcast episodes to date, broadcasting seven days a week.   Not bad for a commercial broker from Portland.

I’ll be posting other episodes on Inspire on a semi-regular schedule from here on out–most with a behind-the-scenes story to go with them here on this blog.    As fun as these shoots are to do, there’s always a bunch of stuff that happens during the shoot (much of it unanticipated) that you don’t see.      Take John’s shoot, last January.    We’d intended to take his photo months later but John ended up coming to Maine for a short trip during the coldest time of year.    Our initial idea was to photograph John in a typical Maine coast setting, but with a twist:   we wanted to try a complicated procedure with steel wool, sparklers and flame.  I mean, EntrepreneurOnFire.    What could go wrong?  We didn’t have time to practice much beforehand, and then we ended up outside in 10 degrees with the temperature falling fast.   Lights, steel wool and my brain do funny things in such situations.   The result was not exactly a great image (saving this technique for another time) and John looks….well, freezing.   My assistant, Charlie, still points out that he has a burn hole through one of his jackets as a result.    We definitely suffered, but sometimes things don’t come up like you planned.  At least we have a new story to tell…..

 

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