“May Flowers” Personal Projects

In a effort to create more work more often I am undertaking a monthly personal project. Finding inspiration and ways to look differently at the world you so often see can be difficult. So often we are so focused on the world that we know we forget to look around and forget to see things in a new light.

After a long winter and cool spring the flowers opened slowly here in Maine. I begin noticing the Forsythia blooming before everything else, it’s common for these little yellow reminders of a winter’s passing to arrive ahead of everything, but This year they seemed to be way ahead of everything else! I started noticing that there were only barren tree limbs, small budding leaves and vibrant forsythia flowers. It was a damp and grey Sunday afternoon hanging out with friends that a thought struck me, what about using all these flowers and a backdrop set against their respective complementary color. I turned to my friend Jessica and asked “do you own a purple shirt?” It was with this the project began.

I wanted to push myself beyond what I might normally, I’m not sure I achieved that but I feel with most personal photo endeavors it added a little bit to my skill set.

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Big Al’s Super Values – A Truly Maine Adventure!

There are some assignments that just make sense! Sometimes an email comes in with a subject line that makes my palms sweat and my mind race with ideas and excitement. This is exactly what happened when Down East Magazine asked me to photograph a feature story on Big Al. I did not grow up in Maine, which meant my knowledge was initially limited to the store front in Wiscasset on rt 1. Along with the assignment sheet came a link to an old Big Al’s commercial, do yourself a favor and check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giC7KjfjjnY.

The ideas started pouring out onto a note pad. I felt like the hardest part of this assignment was going to be trying to make Big Al not look to over the top. he was already such a character I wanted him to appear in some images as down to earth as possible. At the same time I realized this was an opportunity to create some over the top images. Here is a small sample from the shoot that I think represents a pretty good mix.

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Client: Down East Magazine, http://downeast.com/
Subject: Big Al, http://www.bigalssupervalues.com/
Writer: Ron Currie, http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/98373/ron-currie
Photo Assistant: Thomas Huot, https://www.instagram.com/pho_thom/

The Left Arm Project

In March I had reconstructive surgery on my right shoulder, after years of putting it off. I am right handed, which meant holding a camera the way I normally do was out of the question. The recovery time is 6 weeks in a sling, after about one week of computer work, I quickly realized I was going to lose my marbles being indoors and not photographing. A quick post to Facebook asking for photo subjects resulted in a full two days of photographing various friends, acquaintances, and strangers around Maine!

I further challenged myself by only allowing one small wirelessly triggered TTL strobe. I could not believe how freeing and wonderful it was to not be technically bogged down with so much equipment. I am constantly having to remind myself that being a photographer means creating pictures! I know that sounds ridiculous but it is so easy when you run a business to get lost in the everyday nuances of marketing, emails, and website updates, and so many other aspects of running a business that you some times forget to create work.

I continue to shoot assignment work through the recover process, and this project made it easier to do that, as it made me comfortable with the camera in my left hand and minimal equipment.

Here are some of my favorite images from this personal project.

032817_portland-day_AU5A5384Lindsey Gordon, photographer – Inside The Merchant Company, Portland ME

032817_portland-day_AU5A5319Kit, Jessica, Todd, Owners of the Merchant Company – Portland ME

Kelly_Roy_mdwphotographicKelly Stearns Roy, Photographer – Photographed in her studio, Arundel Maine

032817_portland-day_AU5A5186Keaven Hartt – Photographed in the backyard of her urban farm, Portland Maine

032817_portland-day_AU5A5224Keaven Hartt – Photographed in her kitchen she is currently renovating, Portland Maine

032817_portland-day_AU5A4881Mark Fleming, Photographer – Photographed in his office, Portland Maine

Molly_Spadone_032317_AU5A3560Molly Spadone, Designer – Photographed in her design studio, Kennebunk Maine

032817_portland-day_AU5A4820Molly Haley, Photographer – Photographed at Arabica Coffee, Portland Maine

032817_portland-day_AU5A4979Fred Copeman, musician – Photographed in Miss Portland Dinner, Portland ME

Justin-mdwphotographicJustin Melton, Tattoo artist – Photographed in studio, Kennebunk Maine

 

Fooding

I find that I tend to do what’s comfortable for me when it comes to photography. This is due in part to the fact that often time with subjects is limited and I want to maximize that time. Thus, I tend to default to lighting that I am comfortable with and poses I know work. That being said I love when I am forced outside of my comfort zone. When Down East reached out to me to photograph CODA, an american cuisine modern restaurant in Maine’s South West Harbor, I was excited and nervous.

I am not a food person, I enjoy food, but mainly because my body will shut down without it. I can appreciate food but see it more as fuel rather than an experience. This is why food photography has always terrified me. I have such passion towards people that’s why portrait work always feels so natural. The best food photographers I know are not only fabulous photographers, but also absolutely LOVE food.

When I arrived at CODA, both Chef Carter, and his sous chef Brandon were the most accommodating, always a good sign! I had a tremendously enjoyable time with the challenge of photographing outside my comfort zone. I feel comfortable saying that I think I even got some good food photographs out of it!

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Client: Down East Magazine, http://downeast.com/
Subject: Coda restaurant, http://www.codasouthwestharbor.com/

WOODSMEN

Part 2 of 2

The Press Hotel is located in the former building occupied by the Portland Press Herald. When conversation first started about what the body of work could be in the gallery at press hotel it covered a wide range of topics. The idea that kept coming up again and again was the idea of logging here in Maine. The gallery director and I decided that logging was a  way to tie in a relevant topic in Maine as well as honor the history of the Portland Press Herald.

In addition to the eight images on display there is a supplementary piece printed on newsprint. The newsprint is from a paper factory in Québec Canada a couple of phone calls revealed that likely some of the pulpwood for the paper is sourced, in part, from Maine forests. This brought everything full circle as some of the faces of the woodsman in this printed piece are perhaps the same ones who cut the pulpwood used in the production of the paper.

I realize that it is unlikely for there to be a large revival of paper as the world moves more and more towards digital. With that in mind, the thing that kept coming up while working on this project was while the paper industry shrinks the need for lumber and wood to build homes and buildings that humans use has not declined. And while it can be argued that timber does not necessarily qualify as a sustainable resource I personally feel it is far more sustainable than steel or brick. Especially if you consider modern day forrester practices that allow the forest to regrow at a consistent pace and leaving minimal blight on the land.

Here are some images from the show and the supplementary printed piece.

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WOODSMEN

Part 1 of 2

In middle school speech class I had to choose a state to give a speech about. I took one look at a map of the United States and saw how much forest covered the state of Maine and without hesitation chose Maine as the state I wanted to speak about. Growing up in Illinois my access to large tracks of forest were few and far between. When I first visited Maine in 2005 the thing that struck me the most was not the rocky coastline, lobster boats, nor the even the ocean itself but the vastness of the trees and the smell of the wet moss in the forests. Now that I call Maine home my fascination and love of the forest has only grown stronger. Maine is nearly 90% forested and the logging industry has been part of this regions economy for nearly 400 years.

With the demand for paper shrinking and the introduction of large scale mechanized logging the number of actual woodsman has dropped significantly in the last 30 years. What used to be crews of 60 to 80 men have shrunk two crews of 3 to 4 men operating larger machines. The fact is in the end it is still humans that do the work even if that work is aided by machinery. What used to be one of the worlds most dangerous jobs has fallen far far down that list due in large part to the safety factor of heavy machinery.

When I set out to work on this project I wanted to be sure to focus on the people doing the work, the people putting in the 18 hour days, and most importantly to connect viewers with the faces of the logging industry. When I first started photographing logging operations the thing that struck me immediately was the attention paid towards water quality and environmental impacts that were affected by logging. I never came across a swath of barren land. Beyond the machine operators and truck drivers a very large part of the logging industry is sustainable forestry, in maintaining a healthy forest.

In the end the thing that struck me the most was all the people who were logging, operating machines, and driving trucks spoke so proudly of spending time in the forest, hunting, fishing, camping, and exploring with their families. There felt to me like a certain unspoken level of respect that all these workers had for the forest.

Below are a handful of images from the story. More images the series can be seen on my website mdwphotographic.com. Part two will explore the relationship of the photographs to the gallery space it is currently displayed in.

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Photography

Making a living as a photographer is dream, when I was a teenager all I could think about was photography. At that point it was mostly thinking about apertures and shutters, and spending lunchtimes in the darkroom. While working in NYC I began to understand the business of photography, what sells, what doesn’t and really how to make a living out of it. Now that I am a full time photographer, I think so much differently about photography. Admittedly, I am a technical person, someone obsessed with the nuances of lighting, and all the little details of a shot. I approach all shoots with research and concepts to help create the most compelling images possible.

This past week PDN released PDN’s 30, which is a list I have watched closely for so many years. I spent all of Friday evening pouring over every photographer’s websites. I began to notice a common thread through out; I can simply describe it as, passion. Every photographer on that list was photographing exactly what they wanted to be photographing, in an honest and compelling way.

I often find myself thinking about what I would photograph if I didn’t have to make a living from it? I don’t quite know the answer to that, but one thing’s for certain, images with passion behind them are far more compelling to look at.

I spent this past week in Arizona visiting my grandfather, who I hadn’t seen in 20 years. I traveled out there with my Dad, who I don’t see nearly enough. I had a wonderful time, and really got some beautiful insight into exactly what I’ll look like as I age.

Additionally, I brought along my camera as I always do and started taking pictures, at first thinking about how I might pitch it to magazine, something like, “A long weekend in Tuscan.” After half a day of this thinking I realized I would never pitch these images, I would never even add them to a portfolio, I just wanted to make images. No lights, a single lens, a brand new environment, and people I love. I left not only feel personally revived but creatively revived.

Here are my favorite images form that trip:

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