Category Mainers at Work

Maine Gives Back, 2020 Edition

Linda Holtslander
Linda Holtsinger, 77, Preble Street Resource Center volunteer. ©Brian Fitzgerald

Fundamentally, making a difference starts with doing something that has an impact on someone else. This may entail something huge and world-changing (think of something like Matt Damon’s Water.Org), but more typically it’s a small kindness, a comment, a small gesture extended from one person to another. Small acts of this sort occur all around us, and they usually remain unseen and unknown except by those directly involved.

That’s why I loved being part of Down East Magazine’s annual “Maine Gives Back” feature published this November. I got to meet and photograph three remarkable Mainers whose efforts are changing the lives of others: 77-year-old soup kitchen volunteer Linda Holtsinger, who despite the pandemic never misses a day of volunteering; Rose Barboza, a mother who decided to create the nonprofit website Black Owned Maine as her contribution to racial and social justice; and Elizabeth McLellan, whose Portland-based nonprofit Partners for World Health distributes donations of needed medical supplies around the world.

Truly one of those assignments that energizes me and makes me feel better about humanity in general. Below are some of my images used in the issue, but read about many others in the November 2020 Down East Magazine feature, “Maine Gives Back”.



Elizabeth McLellan
Elizabeth McLellan in a warehouse filled with medical supplies destined for countries in need around the world. © Brian Fitzgerald


Rose Barboza
Rose Barboza, founder of Black Owned Maine. © Brian Fitzgerald

Showcase: The Women of the Maine Fisheries & Wildlife

Cartographer
Michele Watkins, GIS Specialist-Cartographer.  © Brian Fitzgerald

 

Beginning in 2019, I worked with the great people at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW) to create location portraits for an ongoing recruitment campaign. These portraits were to feature the game wardens, biologists, educators, cartographers and others who together protect Maine’s wildlife, habitat and the people who enjoy them.

It’s hard to imagine it would be difficult to find people willing to sign up for a job where their office is the great outdoors, but being part of the MDIFW team also means sacrificing physical comfort—especially on winter days spent outside when the thermometer never breaks north of zero degrees. And as with any job in law enforcement, Maine game wardens must confront difficult and dangerous situations, often in remote places.

I spent some very cold days with a few of the MDIFW team members at several locations around central and southern Maine. It was a blast. My favorite kinds of portraits are those that rely on mood, connection and place to create a real moment and tell a story about a person and a place. I hope in some small way that these images successfully do just that. My hope is to capture a sense of each person’s personality while showing the variety of environments they work in—their ever-changing office—day in and day out, in every season of the year.

 
Maine Game Warden
Sarah Miller, Maine Game Warden.  © Brian Fitzgerald

 

 
wildlife biologist
Sarah Spencer, wildlife biologist.  ©Brian Fitzgerald

 

 
field biologist
Sarah Boyden, biologist.  © Brian Fitzgerald

 

wildlife biologist
Danielle D’Auria, wildlife biologist.  © Brian Fitzgerald

 

Marine Biologist
Liz Thorndike, fisheries biologist. © Brian Fitzgerald

 

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!

Showcase: Dove Tail Bats

Dove Tail Bats by Fitzgerald Photo

During the past two months I’ve been busy with ongoing projects, especially with video production of work I started before the stay-at-home orders shut things down.

I love the impact of the still image and it’s my primary way of telling stories visually. Often, a crafted campaign built on remarkable still imagery is the most effective and impactful way to tell a story. Other times, a single still image alone isn’t sufficient and that’s when I turn, increasingly, to video storytelling.

I’m excited to release a new video showing Dove Tail Bats founder Paul Lancisi in his manufacturing facility in Shirley Mills, ME. This was part of a photo assignment for Down East Magazine. While I love the portraits I produced for the magazine, I decided to incorporate video as well because it better conveyed the processes that make Dove Tail Bats so special.

I love how Lancisi pivoted from a woodworking business to one that embraces his lifelong passion for baseball. What he and his wife Theresa have created is amazing: a Maine company that crafts beautiful, one-of-a-kind baseball bats sought after by major league hitters and top college athletes. The bats might look great hung on a wall above the fireplace, but—just like Dove Tail Bats—are destined for greater things.

It’s inspiring to be able to show Maine companies doing such remarkable work and and achieving great success far outside of our state.


                                                                                                              –30–

Ready to level up your storytelling content with photography, videography and multimedia? Contact Fitzgerald Photo to see if we’re a good fit for your brand or project.

This is a Time for Heroes

Deputy Sheriff
York County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Thistlewood.

These are extraordinary times. Extraordinary for many reasons, yet perhaps the most striking is that most of us are being asked to do our best by…doing nothing at all.

At least, it feels that way.

Staying at home. Keeping our physical distance from others. Helping our kids, our loved ones and trying to stay sane ourselves.

Life is not normal for us. We may be staying in one place, but we aren’t exactly doing nothing. We are willing ourselves to not take action so that we can protect others, often at great personal and financial cost.


But what about those who don’t have the choice—whether by necessity or by mandate—to stay home?


I’m referring of course to many of the people who I’ve spent a career photographing:  the police, the firefighters, the paramedics, and the medical professionals.  But this group also includes the sanitation workers, the grocery store workers, the pharmacists, the pizza guy and the mail carrier. All are front-line workers in this time of fear and contraction.


So take a moment and reflect on the sacrifice so many are making while many of us stay home.  We all must do our part.

emergency drill
Maine Medical Center staff during a biohazard drill–part of the extensive preparations they’ve undertaken to prepare for the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Certainty in Uncertain Times

During this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Not long ago all of us were still making optimistic plans for get-togethers, projects and trips for the weeks and months to come.


The events of a few short days have changed and challenged our perceptions and plans.


Stuck at home, certain only of our uncertainties, bouncing off of loved ones and compulsively checking our news (and non-news) feeds for scraps of information, we instead learn second-hand from the gossip of others.


What’s clear is that we are all in the same boat. None of us asked for this and the control we have is limited to that which we exercise over ourselves. We have the choice to limit ourselves for the good of the whole. We also have the option to spend some of our now extra time doing things we’ve long neglected—at least, that’s my plan. I’m choosing to look at this upheaval as a gift of time: time to spend with my family; time to reset and plan; time to learn and reflect.


In a few weeks or months when things calm down and normalcy returns, as it surely will, I hope to look back and know that I spent my time the best way I could. Today, I plant a seed for that day.

Annual Report Imagery: Maine Technology Institute

Annual reports are a comprehensive report on a company’s activities over the past year. As such, they can be dry and tedious to read. The right imagery and a talented team of graphic designers, therefore, are critical to making an annual report something special: at once a showcase and a way to powerfully communicate the company’s core mission and impact.

I’m excited to be able to share the results of a collaboration with Portland-based branding firm Visible Logic last year: annual report images for the Maine Technology Institute (MTI).

MTI offers funding (primarily loans and grants, but also investments) to innovative Maine companies for research and innovation projects. To date, they have funded more than 2,000 projects across the state and invested close to $230 million.

Showcase: SMCC Marine Sciences

SMCC
Brian Tarbox, Marine Science instructor at SMCC.

Most of the work I do involves telling the story of people at work, usually in changing and varied environments. I can think of few environments nicer than being out on Casco Bay on a hazy, sunny spring morning.

Recently I spent a morning on a boat operated by the Southern Maine Community College Marine Science program. Instructor Brian Tarbox led a group of students as they performed a routine survey of Casco Bay, sampling water temperatures and collecting other data.

Many people might be surprised to know what a great, and affordable, educational resource SMCC is. Situated on a beautiful stretch of waterfront in South Portland (formerly the site of Fort Preble) it offers coastal views that any college–community college or university–would envy.

Here are some more images of SMCC.

 

Students aboard the SeaWolf pass by Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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”.