One of my favorite Inspire Portland subjects this year has been Jarrod Spangler, the butcher at Rosemont Market & Bakery. It’s a no-brainer, really, given a my love for grilled meats and a mutual affinity for certain kinds of drink.
I’d never spent much time in the market—I think I’d made it in once since it opened in its Brighton Avenue location—but since our interview in May I’ve been there on almost a weekly basis. I’d recommend Friday as a great time to visit, by the way.
Jarrod is doing all sorts of interesting things that contribute mightily to the vaunted food scene here. For me, it’s not about the finished, plated food. There are so many talented photographers, here and elsewhere, who do amazing work of plated food from the kitchen. Give me a raw cut of meat, allow me to follow a farmer or a cutter, and let me show the process. I find my best portraits are of people who, for a lack of a better description, Do Stuff.
Spangler is an artist in his own right, albeit one with a hacksaw. Read more about what makes him tick, about his plans for Portland’s future and more in this week’s issue of Inspire Portland.
Note: The observant will notice our hiatus from Inspire Portland since mid-May. Suffice to say that time with family and some fantastic work opportunities in Portland and elsewhere took precedence over this project temporarily, which is not a bad thing. Stay tuned for our final installment of Inspire Portland on August 15th…and thanks for hanging with us for the journey.
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The thing that strikes most people when they first walk into the Sea Bags retail/production facility on Portland’s Custom House Wharf is the palpable energy and constant activity. Sea Bags isn’t some cute, trendy shop with bags hanging on sparsely-decorated walls, soothing music and posters of nautical scenes. It’s gritty, cluttered and although there are some bags on display, the largest area is reserved for work. As you watch, you can see seamstresses sewing bags and pre-production folks doing cutting work. The items on the walls are nautical in nature, yes; but they’re likely to have come from the dark recesses of an old fishing shack along the pier, perhaps lightly dusted, and stuck wherever whimsy dictated they might fit.
Walking upstairs, through the shipping department (hallway) you see the conference area with windows that once belonged to the landmark Porthole Restaurant, located just across the street. You can tell this because no one bothered to strip the vinyl letters spelling out the restaurant’s name from the windows.
It’s clear that, under the charred beams of this building, scarred by long-ago fires, is a very different sort of business, indeed. Once that perhaps only could be run by Mainers, in a town like Portland, on a real, working waterfront.
Hannah and Beth were fantastic during our shoot, allowing me to photograph them in the upstairs sail storage area. I took a few extra photos to show the environment—one I could easily spend a day in, shooting in a more documentary mode. Read more about what makes Sea Bags different in this week’s Inspire Portland.
I’m sometimes asked how I find my Inspire Portland subjects. The truth is, they find me. I’m a relative newcomer to Maine; a West Coaster still learning the ropes after six years in Portland. I do a lot of research and keep my eyes and ears open for interesting people that are doing notable things. I ask for help from trusted ‘connector’ types. The result is a list that is unique but full of pretty impressive people.
I’m excited about this week’s issue of Inspire Portland, featuring political activist Alison Smith. Depending on your interest for Maine current events and politics, you perhaps haven’t heard of Smith before, which is great. Portland’s full of people who reach stratospheric heights in their own areas of interest but are virtually unknown to the general population. Yet, their contributions can have a big impact on us all.
An early participant in the coalition comprising the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, Smith fought for the landmark Clean Elections Act, which first was utilized during the 2000 elections. Maine was the first state to enact such a law, meant to balance the pull and influence of private “big” money in political races.
I kept hearing Smith’s name. The last straw was when I heard her speak on NPR, and so I contact her to ask her participation. She was gracious, but since it’s the political season, actually connecting to do the photo and interview took some time and flexibility. After a few attempts we finally met to do the photo in the kitchen of her West End, Portland home. I love the idea of her at work at her kitchen table (that’s Boris the cat in the photo, by the way).
The lead Inspire Portland image is one that I absolutely love. It captures Smith in her environment, with the tools of the modern activist around her. The path to Clean Elections has been long, and the battles continue; I think the photo successfully conveys some of that struggle. Even in a simple portrait like this one, what makes it really work , aside from the lighting and environmental details, is the moment–the expression and mood captured in the eyes of the subject. This frame immediately stood out from all the rest as a ‘true’ moment.
The images posted here show another side of Smith, relaxing with Boris, in a lighter mood. The lighting emulates natural window light and complements, rather than overpowers, the scene. A very simple setup, but sometimes less is more.
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It took a couple of tries and possibly a bit of intercession on the part of others, but I was elated that Jessica Tomlinson agreed to be part of our exceptional list of influential Portlanders featured in this week’s Inspire Portland.
This week’s Inspire Portland has actually been in the works for at least a year. I’d had the idea to photograph Sean Wilkinson for a few reasons: he has a distinctive sense of style, he seems to be connected to and know absolutely everyone in Portland, and he (to me) epitomizes the inherantly creative nature of many in Portland, who are working hard to fuse creative work, business and education into something viable and growing.
In the interest of full disclosure, Sean is a friend, and his company, Might & Main, is located just below our studio in downtown Portland. It was actually difficult to not ask to photograph Sean’s Might & Main cohorts, Arielle Walrath and Kevin Brooks, easily two of the nicest and most talented individuals I know. I just felt that Sean’s involvement in so many projects in Portland, including as president of AIGA and organizer of the twice-annual Picnic arts and music festival, gave him the edge for this project. You may not know Sean, but chances are that if you attend any arts event in Portland, he may have been involved.
And if you don’t yet know Might & Main, stay tuned. You’ll be seeing their work, and their name, with increasing frequency.
The concept was to photograph Sean in a setting reminiscent of 70s kitsch, in a completly brown palette. Sometime last year, Sean proudly displayed his new stuffed boar head, “Boris”, which I knew immediately had to figure in the final image. The shoot itself was fairly simple, with only one real setup—a far cry from the variety I usually aim for. The set was simple, and the lighting was specifically set up to aid in the post-production effect I wanted. Check out the time-elapse video below to see the setup and shoot in action. Enjoy!
When I first met Avner, he was returning from his Aikido dojo in Portland. We chatted about our upcoming photoshoot and his career and travel. Here is a person who has performed so many times, before so many audiences, that therein lies a challenge for me as a photographer. As with any subject, it’s necessary to break through the wall of formality between photographer and subject. Every person presents a certain kind of mask to the world, and it’s when this masks drops—even slightly, sometimes for just an instant—that there’s an opportunity for an authentic, real and interesting photograph.
Our location was the Maine State Ballet Company—I could say it’s because of Avner’s deep connection to performance in all its forms, but really, it’s because it’s the only place I could find near Portland with a red velvet curtain that I knew would look great in the final image. Once Avner was on location and in character, with trademark bowler hat, my job was just to make him feel comfortable and let him do his thing.
The only issue is, Avner is a professional and experienced performer. Slipping into character is second nature. The trick wouldn’t be getting interesting shots of him emoting and in character. Instead, it would be to get him in an unguarded, real moment. Although I got a great number of quality, fun images of Avner, most look like typical promotional images used to promote an upcoming show rather than an editorial image conveying a feeling about Avner as a person. In the end I came down to a couple of images, including one of Avner leaning down on his traveling trunks, his face serious and lined. I went with the image we used for Inspire Portland because it captured a light and somewhat enigmatic expression, conveyed a strong theatrical sense, and was totally unscripted. In fact, it was during a moment when I was adjusting the lights and Avner was just talking and interacting with me and my assistant, Charlie. To me, Avner looks comfortable and in his element, an accomplished pro who has spent a lifetime in the theater but who still has the capacity to have fun.
Check out some of the outtakes in the show below (it’s a Flash gallery, so iProduct users will need a a computer to view the outtakes). I love the one of him with his hat perfectly perched in the air above his head. Only took Avner a handful of tries to nail that one.
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My plan was to photograph Eliot Cutler—yes, that Eliot Cutler, the lawyer and businessman who almost became Maine’s governor in 2010—outside on an overcast, gloomy day in December. I wanted it to be cold. In fact, the colder the better. I wanted a strong visual that captured the sense of a man, standing alone against the elements and the gathering storm. For me, it was the perfect visual metaphor for a man who accepted defeat with class and then went on to found a political organization, OneMaine, dedicated to political reform here in Maine and beyond.
That was the plan, anyway. Cutler was game and the stark location on Portland’s waterfront would work well. After one cancellation (due to an actual storm, with strobe light-ruining rain), we rescheduled in December. The weather turned out to be cold, but not bitterly so—as I’d hoped—but it was sufficiently overcast. At least it was until Cutler actually stood in front of the camera. That’s when the clouds slid away from the sun and the somber mood turned a few shades lighter.
So I shot the portrait I’d planned, and then decided to turn the sun’s appearance to my advantage. Combined with a tough, somewhat enigmatic expression from Cutler, the backlit portrait quickly became my favorite. I briefly stepped back to grab a scener, complete with assistant Charlie Widdis, my fully-functioning human-powered light boom. Easy, simple, and all due to a great subject with a bit of seat-of-the-pantsery. As Charlie says, it’s our standard M.O. Check out the story on Inspire Portland.
As a longtime photojournalist, I love good documentary work. My favorite work tends to come from master visual storytellers like W. Eugene Smith (his iconic photo of Tomoko in her Bath, from his Minimata project, is still one of my top-five images of all time).
So I guess I was predisposed to like the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. And it wasn’t much of a leap for me to ask Donna Galluzzo, Salt’s executive director, to participate in this week’s issue of Inspire Portland. A photographer herself, Galluzzo has repositioned Salt for the future with a new space and a transformation to using digital tools for all of its tracks (radio, photography, writing).
She well understands that the tools may change, but good storytelling does not. Looking at the work of her students, it’s quite timeless—in the way that Minimata would be as powerful today as it was almost four decades ago.
We met and I photographed Galluzzo in Salt’s sleek new headquarters on Congress Street—yep, that’s a bamboo floor you see in the photo. I’ve posted a few outtakes from the shoot, though in this instance I knew what I was going for and moved around less than I normally would. You can see our multiple light setup in one of the photos, with my assistant Charlie playing the part of subject.
I’m quite happy with the final image we used on Inspire Portland. It’s less storytelling and more evocative. To me, it gives a feel for the optimism and energy that Galluzzo brings to Salt and that Salt, with its body of storytellers, brings to Portland and Maine. Enjoy.
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Leslie Evans is the talent behind LEDA (Leslie Evans Design Associates), a firm she started in 1986 in New York doing work primarily for clothing magazines. She ended up coming to Portland in the early 1990s like many others before and since—had a vision of what Maine and the lifestyle could be and liked it better than the alternative of living in a concrete jungle. As only a few do, she moved here and made that vision a reality. Each phase of her business seems characterized by a leap—a decision to do something different, or to forge a different path. This is what led her to brand Stonewall Kitchens with her ‘food as fashion’ approach. It’s also that same drive that launched her newest venture, built around custom designed textiles, Leslie Evans Designs. It’s a creativity,a different way of thinking, and the temerity to keep at it until it succeeds.
I met Leslie a couple of years ago, after photographing her former Commercial Street studio. We’ve been in touch ever since, and I thought she’d be a perfect fit for Inspire Portland. The final image I chose is dark, somewhat gritty and taken in the conference area of her Cape Elizabeth studio. I took lots of other, bright and commercial-looking images that day (see slideshow below for a few outtakes) but something about this scene made this image the clear winner. Leslie Evans may be all about beautiful, airy design….but the work that goes into making that happen isn’t glamorous or easy. I like the feel of Leslie being surrounded by the volumes of art and design, swatches in hand on a worn, weathered table. To me it speaks to what makes creatives succeed, besides talent….hard work and inspiration.
Check out Leslie’s article in this issue of Inspire Portland.
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