Posts tagged maine commercial photographer

Weaving Art and Function at Heide Martin Studio

As part of my ongoing Creating Spaces series featuring Maine artists in their working environments, I had the opportunity to work last fall with Heide Martin and her husband, co-founder Patrick Coughlin.  The couple operate Rockland, Maine-based Heide Martin Design Studio, creating unique and functional furniture and housewares.   

I was drawn to the studio because of the strong sense of style that permeates their work.   Working with natural, simple materials available here in Maine, the two produce exquisite pieces of art that happens to double as functional furniture. 

In particular, I love how Heide incorporates the art of weaving into many of her pieces, drawing for inspiration from an out-of-print book on traditional weaving patterns, among other sources.  

I’m happy to be able to show the video we produced that day, along with a few stills from my visit with Heide and Patrick in their spacious and well-ordered studio. 

Heide Martin and Patrick Coughlin at the Martin Design Studio. © Brian Fitzgerald

 

On the Campaign Trail with Senator Angus King

Maine Senator Angus King

It’s election year, which last month led to the opportunity to photograph Independent Maine Senator Angus King for his reelection campaign.

I’m used to hauling gear to handle any lighting situation. This time, though, I was just carrying a couple of cameras and a small off-camera flash. It felt like being a newspaper photojournalist again.

King, an avid photographer himself, wanted candid shots. No assistants, no extra gear. Just natural moments as he met with constituents in Brunswick and Skowhegan.  The mission was to travel fast and light, capturing real life as he made multiple stops along the way.

At one point, King left for an emergency dental appointment—reappearing 45 minutes later, ready to go. Soon he was throwing a football with Bowdoin College students at a local park (King was a high school football quarterback).  In my book, toughness is scheduling a dental appointment and a photo shoot on the same day.

Eight hours and five locations later, King was still going strong at an event in Skowhegan. It was fun and an honor to spend the day with him and his campaign.

Maine Senator Angus King
© Brian Fitzgerald
Maine Senator Angus King
© Brian Fitzgerald
Maine Senator Angus King
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Maine Senator Angus King
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Maine Senator Angus King
© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Maine Senator Angus King
© Brian Fitzgerald
Maine Senator Angus King
© Brian Fitzgerald

Behind the scenes at Sappi’s Somerset Mill

 

Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, ME for Sappi Global.  © Brian Fitzgerald

 

Last fall, I collaborated with the marketing team at Sappi North America on Project Elevate—a $418 million upgrade at Maine’s Somerset Mill. They’re overhauling Paper Machine No. 2, expanding its capabilities, all while the mill’s day-to-day operations churn on. Having struggled myself to simultaneously construct my child’s Ikea desk and binge watch TV, I couldn’t help but be deeply impressed by this achievement.

 

My task was to capture elements of this

Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, ME for Sappi Global. © Brian Fitzgerald

massive project over the course of one day. This involved shadowing Sappi N.A.’s president and CEO, Michael Haws, as he toured the bustling construction site. I created environmental portraits of Haws and his team, and photographed him with Sappi workers.

I love creating images in industrial environments like these–while challenging, the opportunities for amazing and dramatic visuals are worth the effort.

 

Paper Mill
Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, ME for Sappi Global. © Brian Fitzgerald

 

Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, ME for Sappi Global. © Brian Fitzgerald

Photographing AI leader Amanda Stent at Colby

Female Scientist
Amanda Stent, inaugural Director of the Colby College Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence.  ©Brian Fitzgerald

I’m excited to share one of the assignments I did for Colby College recently. This was to photograph Amanda Stent, the inaugural Director of the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence at Colby—the first such cross-disciplinary institute at a liberal arts college.

Professor and student discussion
©Brian Fitzgerald

Stent, a renowned expert in Natural Language Processing (NLP), transitioned from her role as NLP architect at Bloomberg L.P., where she led their AI team. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 papers and is co-inventor on more than 30 patents in NLP. In short, Stent is a big deal in the world of AI, and her leadership of the Davis Institute will allow Colby to fulfill its goal of integrating AI and machine learning into a liberal arts framework.

Luckily, the Colby Campus provided a number of interesting environments for portraits and for interactions with students. It was important to try to give a sense of the academic environment as well as the innovative work being done there at Colby.

Female Scientist
Amanda Stent, inaugural Director of the Colby College Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence.  ©Brian Fitzgerald

 

 

 

Dylan Metrano: Crafting Tiny Marvels in a Cozy Space

 

Dylan Metrano
© Brian Fitzgerald

Dylan Metrano perches atop an adjustable office chair that—along with his drafting table—dominates his top-floor home studio. Glow-in-the-dark stars cling to the ceiling, remnants of a bygone nursery. A bookcase and artwork adorn the walls of its 8×10-foot interior.

“I’m in the space that I need, because I don’t work particularly big. My cutting mat is only 12′ x 12′ so I don’t really go much bigger than that,” says Metrano, a paper cutting artist based in Bath, Maine. “I wish I had more wall space to hang more art up in, but in general I’ve got everything I need in here, he says. “I can’t imagine working without it.”

In this cramped space, Metrano meticulously crafts paper designs, melding shapes and colors for cards, logos, T-shirts, posters, album covers, calendars and more. “My tools for paper cutting are basically an X-Acto knife, a glue stick and a ruler,” he explains. His sole extravagance, the rolling chair, came from an advance for illustrating a children’s book years ago. “I have to have a nice surface and a nice seat,” he explains.

Bending over his table, knife in hand, Metrano swiftly carves a black piece of paper with a stenciled design. The paper measures perhaps six inches square. It’s an animal—a bird.

Dylan Metrano
© Brian Fitzgerald

“Birds are definitely one of my favorites. There’s so many varieties and they’re so colorful and interesting. The feathers are really fun to create,” he says.

Metrano grew up in Massachusetts but frequented the coast of Maine as a child. He later worked on Monhegan Island, where he met his future wife, Mandy. They eventually married, settling down and starting a chocolate-making business called La Nef Chocolate. Throughout it all, Metrano continued crafting paper art, even when lacking a dedicated space. “When I first moved to Monhegan (Island) I was doing paper cutting in the cafe there, but it’s distracting with people coming and going.”

Metrano pauses, glancing up at his MacBook. The screen reveals a reference image of the subject that is gradually taking shape, cut by cut, on his board. It’s a Killdeer, a small shorebird. Metrano adds bits of colored paper—red for the eyes, brown for the head and feathers, white for the breast. Almost done.

Birds are easier to create with than people, Metrano observes. “You don’t have to be so specific with birds or animals because they’re not recognizable as an individual. If I try to do a Prince portrait and the nose is not quite right, it’s not going to look like him. That’s where it gets more difficult. Those are harder to do ultimately, but they’re really gratifying when they come out well,” he says.

When creating purely for personal enjoyment, Metrano—a lifelong musician as well as an artist–prefers to create musician portraits. “That’s what I do just for myself,” he remarks, displaying a few past creations: Deep Purple. Prince, of course. The Beatles, and others—both famous and obscure.

Beatles Portraits
© Brian Fitzgerald


Despite its limited size, Metrano’s studio is a sanctuary. When he enters, he disengages from the world outside. “It’s more like switching off,” Metrano chuckles. “It’s a meditative exercise for me. Once I’ve got my pencil marks down on paper and I start cutting, I don’t really think about it. A couple of hours goes by and I’ve got a piece done.”

Killdeer Bird
© Brian Fitzgerald


With the Killdeer finished, intricate cuts highlighting texture and color, Metrano rises from the table. His workspace is illuminated by a solitary desk lamp in the now-darkened room. It’s late, and his work is done.

“I do it because I enjoy it. If I ever find that I’m not enjoying it, I just won’t do it,” Metrano says, glancing around his close confines. “I’ll just go make more chocolates.”

 

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Dylan Metrano
© Brian Fitzgerald

Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.

Brick by Brick

Seattle Shadows
© Brian Fitzgerald

Sometimes random events converge, seemingly by accident, and reveal a greater truth.

This week I jumped on a plane and flew some 3,000 miles to visit an ailing uncle—my father’s brother—at his home on Vashon Island near Seattle.  Along with my brother and two of my sisters, we spent time with him, sharing family stories, filling in gaps in our collective memories and laughing, a lot.  It was an impromptu visit, borne of a desire to connect with those who matter to me at a time of my choosing and not pulled by the usual forces of union and demise: marriage and death.  I didn’t even tell my friends living in the state because I wanted—needed—to focus on some family relationships long neglected. 

We, and I, had a great time. On the return flight, I came across a quote by New Zealander and writer Frank W. Boreham: “We make our decisions, and then our decisions turn around and make us.”  My trip made even more sense then.  

It’s a beautiful thought that our daily decisions—like that which led to me being on this very plane—are the very things that, over time, make us who we are. It’s easy to imagine that with each small decision, we are choosing to build our future selves, much like a building is built.  One brick at a time.

A Space Called Home: Joe Rosshirt

 

 

Artist in his studio
Joe Rosshirt, owner of FortHouse Studios. © Brian Fitzgerald

“Kids from an early age all think they’re artists. They’ll raise their hands if you ask them in kindergarten class, says Joe Rosshirt. “Every year that goes by, less and less hands will come up, to a point where you’re self-conscious to put your hand up.”

Joe Rosshirt is an illustrator, animator and artist who operates FortHouse Studios out of his home studio in South Portland, Maine. Over the past 15 years, the Maine College of Art (MECA) graduate has worked with all types of clients incuding national and regional marketing agencies and sells his own creations at art festivals and other venues.

© Brian Fitzgerald

It’s a long way from his childhood, when he remembers doubting his dream of being an artist. “I thought, I shouldn’t be an artist because all artists are poor,” Rosshirt says. “You think that ‘starving artists’ is the one rule for artists. It’s a limiting belief.”

Rosshirt has operated out of other spaces, but this studio—he’s been here for about a year—is the first he’s owned. “I love the security. I don’t have to think where I’ll be next year. My rent’s not going up and I’m not getting pushed out. That was always a back-of-the-mind issue with all my other spaces,” he says.

Rosshirt’s previous studio was larger and ‘gorgeous’ but he says he realized after a few years that it wasn’t the space that made him an artist. “The space affects your creativity, turning into a creativity vacuum chamber. If you make the space your own, your ideas can live there. It feels like I can just access those ideas by being here.”

Rosshirt doesn’t have a set schedule, usually getting into the studio by 10 but often working odd hours. “I transition into work mode easily. Even in the middle of the night, I act on it,” he explains. “Nine-to-five never got me into a flow state. Lightning strikes of creativity can’t be predicted.” He adds: “The Stephen King style isn’t for me: ‘Show up, do work, get out.’ Not my approach.” 

One of the things Rosshirt loves most about his work is going to art shows, where he sells directly to the public.  “I have this tagline, ‘Make Happy Happen'”, he says.   “I just want to spread smiles.  That’s enough.  I don’t need to make the sale.”

© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.

 

Redundancy and Creative Resilience

 

David Moses Bridges
David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy artist and activist, photographed in 2007.  © Brian Fitzgerald

 

Redundancy has a bad rap.  It conjures images of lost jobs, of being the expendable one.  But as a creative, redundancy is my secret weapon. It makes me and my creative work resilient.

Think about photo gear:  cameras, cards, batteries, lights—all need backups. When I’m far from home, a single gear failure can derail a shoot.  But the idea goes deeper. Redundant copies of client work, a shortlist of reliable assistants, multiple setups for every shoot—they all are necessary in my world.

A case in point: a recent shoot went sideways.  My first location and setup just wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.  Then, my subject got pulled into a surprise last-minute meeting.  This chewed up one hour of a two-hour shoot.  Fortunately, I’d arrived hours before the shoot and had other setups and locations waiting. I pivoted, and once my subject was free, we were able to move on.

Those second and third locations turned out to be gold.  Far better than the original, in fact.  Redundancy gave me options, which in turn gave me the ability to adapt.  Challenges are a certainty in any business. But if you give yourself options, you’re not just surviving—you’re thriving when things change. Maybe it’s better to reframe redundancy.  Rather than being expendable, it’s about being prepared. 

 

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Gael McKeon: Inspired and Unbound

 

Bass Luthier
Bass Luthier Gael McKeon, Portland, Maine. © Brian Fitzgerald

“As a young (bass) luthier, I thought I was going to make all of these innovative changes. You see people doing it all the time: they change (instruments) sporadically. It doesn’t work. If you’re going to make it different, (the instrument) still has to work,” says Gael McKeon.

© Brian Fitzgerald

McKeon, originally from New York City, has been a double bass luthier since 1998. He’s since worked and studied in New York, North Carolina, San Francisco, and Toulouse, France, before moving to Maine. In his workshop on the third floor of the State Theater building on Congress Street, McKeon repairs and restores traditional instruments while designing his own.

“Humidity and temperature control is essential. I’m ruined without that,” says McKeon of his tidy but cramped space, one wall dominated by views of Congress Street below. McKeon describes his shop as the ‘second best’ space he’s ever had. “I’m here mostly because of the windows,” he says. “It’s just big enough so that I can manage the amount of repairs that I can handle. If I had less space, I would have to tell people to hold on to their instruments while I finished other things. Here, I can juggle a little bit, and I can have adequate machinery.”

McKeon also builds his own instruments. He describes his approach as conventional, using traditional proportions, but with his own departures of design inspired by classic and modern forms. One bass on display in his shop sat broken for 12 years before he restored it with a paper fingerboard and a custom scroll that he first sketched in 1998. “I’ve added some innovations,” says McKeon, “but there are technical reasons for its aesthetics.”

 

Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.

© Brian Fitzgerald

 

© Brian Fitzgerald

 

© Brian Fitzgerald

 

Cut it Out: When Less is More

 

Maine Cops
Pete Herring, District Game Warden with the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, © Brian Fitzgerald

 

My default mode seems set to Acquire: Get more gear, more software, more skills, new stuff. But more isn’t better. It’s often a trap. Over time, the act of acquiring can become the goal itself.

That’s why the skill of subtraction is so important.

Subtractive lighting is critical in portrait photography. Blanket a subject with light, and then step by step, remove or block light to reveal shadow, shape and negative space. Stop when things get interesting. Light makes images possible, but shadow is what gives images definition, mood and impact.

The same concept applies elsewhere in life. Pruning makes plants stronger. Editing is critical for impactful writing. Decluttering homes make it easier to live in them. Cutting away the old and extraneous gives space for other things to grow.

Adding new things to life is fun and essential, but so is regular culling. I try to carve out time regularly, ideally at least twice a year, to evaluate and to subtract things that no longer work for me or are preventing progress on meaningful work. Embrace the process of subtraction by regularly and systematically clearing out the overgrowth in your life. You might be surprised by the things you learn and discover along the way.

 

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