Category Projects

Arrested: Stories Behind the Badge

Arrested: Stories Behind the Badge
Maine Game Warden Pete Herring, photographed on the shore of Lake Arrowhead near Waterboro, ME.

For the first time, I’m publishing a few images from a project on Maine’s Peace Officers that I’ve been working on for over a year with the working title, Arrested:  Stories Behind the Badge.

Arrested’ is a series of portraits of law enforcement officers from across the state of Maine, photographed at the actual locations where they experienced a life-altering incident on the job.

The diversity of situations the officers I’ve interviewed have been incredible: some have been shot; others have had to use their weapons. Some have been injured, some have saved lives. All have had to react in situations that required skill, judgement and humanity.

Nationally, the idea that cops are dangerous and out of control, and are to be feared–this is an additional burden on officers in Maine, many of whom police the same communities they and their families live in. When a difficult incident occurs, they are reminded of it every time they pass the spot where it occurred.

Arrested: Stories Behind the Badge
Photographing at the scene of a house fire rescue, Old Orchard Beach, ME.

This project is an attempt to convey the reality of the difficult work officers do every day. I’m thankful to the officers who have participated. I’d like to say that it’s been a good experience for them to share their stories, but I also know it’s not been easy for people who tend to avoid the spotlight.

It’s been an incredible experience for me as well and I hope to share the complete project, as well as the many stories, soon.

Arrested: Stories Behind the Badge
York County Sheriff’s Deputy, Sgt. Steven Thistlewood.

The Oldest State

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As an editorial and commercial photographer, you just never know when an amazing assignment will come your way. It’s a good habit to train yourself to look for opportunities for project work that will stretch you creatively.

2013 has been a great one for interesting visual projects. I was fortunate enough to be involved with the Southern Maine Agency on Aging for a project early in the year, and as a result of that ended up meeting and photographing several senior athletes.

Now, when I think ‘senior athletes’ I usually imagine high school kids runnning around a track–the kind of assignment I routinely had as a newspaper staffer. These seniors are over the age of 50, and are extremely talented athletes. I ended up doing a series of portraits of these Maine athletes who compete at a national level at the National Senior Games in their respective sports.

Maine famously has a population with the highest median age in the entire country. My concept was to photograph senior athletes in the environment they train in, showing their connection to Maine. I ended up photographing each on white seamless as a way of separating them from that environment, illustrating that they are serious, talented athletes independent of their Maine address. I call the project “the Oldest State”, and hope that it shows what’s possible no matter your age.

Thanks to the SMAA and to all of the athletes. I hope I never again have to set up white seamless outside on the Maine coast…but meeting these folks was an amazing experience.


Smoke and fire in Auburn

I’ve been busy lately, working on a somewhat hush-hush project in the Lewiston-Auburn area.   Last night as we finished the 12th and final shoot, the Lewiston Sun-Journal showed up and so the cat’s partially out of the bag.  Here’s Charlie and me at work in Daryn Slover’s photo from today’s Sun-Journal, ….followed by an outtake from that same shoot, just to show what it looks like in-camera with all of the smoke and lights. Once the everything is complete, I’ll post more images and explain how I approached this complicated (and extremely fun) project.:


Photo by Daryn Slover/Sun-Journal
Photo by Daryn Slover/Sun-Journal



Portland’s MadGirl

This final portrait of Portland artist and designer Meredith Alex, AKA “MadGirl” is the last for the year-long Inspire Portland project.  It’s been a really fun ride.  I’ve met dozens of incredible, inspiring people, only a few of whom made it into Inspire Portland.  Many more deserve to be.   I never intended this to be a definitive roundup of Portland’s best and brightest, but a glimpse of the deep pool of talent here.
It’s up to you to find your own inspiration.
Meredith was a great subject—she shimmied into the coolest dress made from strips of photo paper and walked barefoot out on a jetty in Portland’s harbor.  It was actually pretty chilly when we took the photo and quite late in the evening, but she was a true trooper.  Take a look at some of the outtakes and the behind-the-scenes photos from the shooot.  And thanks for reading!
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Behind the scenes with the man in brown

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!

Telling Maine’s stories

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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A man named Corky

My former next-door-neighbor Mike worked for a very mysterious-sounding tech company named Kepware Technologies.  Every so often, Mike would disappear to for a week or so and come back with tales of travels to Germany, Portugal or Eastern Europe for his job.   I recall a night at his place involving a couple of Russian business partners and some vodka.   He explained what they made—software drivers—leaving me as confused as before.

I thought again of Kepware when I started Inspire Portland after reading some articles about Kepware’s successes–and founder Corson “Corky” Ellis’ involvement in the promotion of entrepreneurship in Maine through ventures like the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun program    I thought, I’ve got to meet this guy.   At a minimum, he might be able to explain what Kepware does in a way that my feeble brain can understand.

Two days after he agreed to the shoot, I found myself in the headquarters of Corky’s operation, above the Post Office in downtown Portland.   He looks a little like my good friend and photographer Brad Armstrong.   We had a good conversation, and Corky emphasized two things repeatedly:  one, the success of Kepware is entirely due to the efforts of many talented people besides himself; and two, that he is very concerned about the state of technology education among secondary school students.  From his perspective, the best way to keep and attract high-paying tech jobs here in Maine is to get our kids more interested in science and math.    He sees technology education as the key to creating a technology economy here in Maine.

The shoot went well and I had the run of their amazing space across from City Hall.   Corky is one of those talented entrepreneurs who actively chose to live in Portland and now, some 15 years later, is employing more than 60 people in highly-skilled jobs.    Almost as important, he finally explained to me what Kepware actually does in terms I can understand, comparing it to the printer drivers you download to allow your computer and printer to talk…just on a much bigger scale.

Read his interview and see the photos at Inspire Portland.   I chose the lead image because it seemed the least contrived, and the most revealing in terms of his expression.   You ask questions about what people carry in their pockets, and it tends to get people to drop their guard a bit.   See the outtakes and lighting scene shot in the gallery below (sorry, iUsers, you’ll need Flash).

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Introducing…Inspire Portland


Inspire Portland

Five years ago, my wife Beth and I drove 3,090 miles from Washington State to Portland, Maine.   I had recently been transferred by my employer, the Seattle Times Company, to become the photo director at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

In my career as a journalist, I’ve lived a lot of places but the goal was always the same:  to make my mark at the newspaper, and when it was time, move on.    It never really mattered where I lived, from Korea to Yakima, Washington, but Portland was different.  We were as excited about our new hometown as I was about the new job.

After a couple of years I decided to leave the newspaper to focus on my photography business.   We were faced with a decision:  stay in Portland, or move again.

We chose Portland.

Almost everyone, it seems, has had to ‘choose’ Portland at some point.   From the 20-something working several ‘joblets’, to the entrepreneur who decides they’ll build a business here, almost everyone, at some point, has to make a decision whether to stay.  Portland isn’t made up of people who just end up here—this isn’t Phoenix or Florida or L.A.   The winters are hard and long, and jobs can be scarce.  It’s a place where, to succeed, you have to work hard and be creative.   Not surprisingly, it’s filled with some pretty interesting, driven and creative people.

Which brings me to Inspire Portland.   Years ago, our family decided to live, work and play in Portland.   Inspire Portland is a sampling of people—people you may know about, and people that you should.  This site is based on my desire to get out on the streets with my camera and talk with people who make Portland such a cool place.    Every other week I’ll feature a new portrait along with a short question-and-answer session.  That’s 26 portraits and interviews of some pretty cool people that have inspired Portland.

On this blog, I’ll announce each ‘issue’, tell the backstory for the portrait and may publish additional photos from the shoots.   The project kicks off with three portraits dating from September 1.

The first portrait is of Rich Connor, CEO and Publisher of MaineToday Media.   I start with him because our paths are intertwined—The Press Herald is what brought me to Portland.  It hasn’t been that long since national media ran articles about how Portland was on the verge of losing its only daily (non-free) newspaper.   Connor is responsible for the paper’s continued survival during a very difficult time for newspapers.    Next up is Nan Heald, executive director for Pine Tree Legal Assistance.  Through an army of volunteer laywers, the PTLA has changed lives for the better here.  I end September with Chystie Corns, who takes the idea of ‘invent your dream job’ to a whole new level.  Her talent is that she makes it look so easy.

Let me know what you think.

For police officer injured by distracted driver, a slow recovery

South Portland Police Officer Rocco Navarro

Photographer’s Note:  Mainers at Work is an ongoing portrait series featuring Maine individuals who work some of the most dangerous, dirty or low-paying jobs as compiled by CareerCast.Com for its 2011 ranking of 200 jobs nationwide.


Behind South Portland police officer Rocco Navarro, the Casco Bay Bridge looms, a symbol that connects his past with a forever altered future.  “You never think of this happening on a routine call,” he says.   A former athlete with a degree in kinesiology,  Navarro has to shift his hips to adjust for the weight of his duty belt, now painful to wear.

Click to Enlarge
Photo courtesy of South Portland Police Department

Stretching away across the Fore River and linking South Portland with Maine’s largest city is the drawbridge that more than 30,000 drivers cross daily.  It was there, on Nov. 1, 2010, that Navarro had a brush with death—in the form of a distracted driver on a cell phone.

Navarro, 28, is in many ways a typical Maine police officer.   Born and raised in Portland, he attended local schools and played football—Navarro was a punter, and good enough to play for three years at the University of Maine—before deciding on a career in law enforcement.  He chose South Portland because it was close to home but also because he wouldn’t be patrolling his old neighborhood.  “I figured it would be too awkward to work where I knew everyone,” he says.

After graduating the police academy in 2007,  Navarro started on the late shift and eventually was assigned a daytime patrol slot, first shift, that started at 7 am.

The morning of the accident,  Navarro responded to a routine call involving a broken-down Kia sedan in the northbound lanes of the Casco Bay Bridge.  It was just before 11 am, and Navarro had just returned to his vehicle, parked behind the disabled car, to await a tow truck. “Thirty seconds earlier, I would have been killed,” he says.

A full-size 2010 Chevrolet pickup truck rammed into the back of Navarro’s police cruiser at an estimated 45 miles per hour.  After the impact, the officer struggled to remain conscious.   He manged to kick open his jammed driver side door and stand up briefly—he was concerned about the car catching fire, he says—and the last thing he remembers is fellow officer Robert Libby approaching the scene.  The next thing he knew, he woke in the hospital.

Since that time it’s been a difficult and long recovery.  “The first three weeks, I felt like a 90-year-old,” Navarro remembers.   His first month was a haze and bad migraine headaches came frequently.  Even as short-term effects faded, other issues stubbornly remain.  Navarro’s short-term memory has been slow at coming back, and it’s difficult for him to sit for long periods of time.   “I didn’t drive for a month.  In traffic, I’d get flashbacks,” he says.  “It was hard going over the bridge for a while.”

Maine is one of only a handful of states without laws banning texting and cell-phone use for all drivers–something Navarro and his fellow officers would like to see changed.   The driver of the Chevy was cited for failure to maintain control of a vehicle.

In the meantime, Navarro rides a desk until cleared for patrol duty by his doctors.  That could still be a while.  He’s also found he’s in a unique position to make a difference in the lives of others.  This month, he started speaking at local high schools on the dangers of texting while driving.  He hopes to get back on the street and plans to eventually retire from the department despite the dangers.

“It’s been a huge setback, he says of the accident.    “I love my job and to have it taken away like that…you’re not prepared for it.   It’s probably the biggest setback in my life.   I’m trying to get back to where I was.”


Name: Rocco Navarro
Age: 28
Occupation: Police Officer
Employer: South Portland Police Department
Rank on CareerCast survey: 178 (out of 200)