Tag Archives: Maine Photographic Workshops

Vacationland: Rural Maine Chronicled in the Photography of Steven Rubin

Twenty-five years old with a single camera body and lens in hand, Steven Rubin hitched a ride in 1982 to rural Somerset County in northwestern Maine and embarked on a project that would continue for more than 30 years.

Now a selection of the images Rubin captured during his decades-long project in this little-visited region of the U.S. will soon get a rare showing in Los Angeles. “Vacationland” goes up at the drkrm gallery from April 28 through May 26.

A graduate from Reed College with a degree in sociology, Rubin had originally come out to the East Coast from Oregon to enroll at the then Maine Photographic Workshops (now the Maine Media Workshops) in Rockport. After documenting the effects of the early 1980s recession on families nearby, he wanted to see how the economic downturn was being handled by locals far from the highways, historic lighthouses and second homes of the Maine coast. On a tip from a friend, Rubin headed inland and settled upon an abandoned shack as his home base and a schedule of hitching four to eight hours between the countryside to take pictures and Rockport to develop them.

Taking prints back to his subjects as a thank-you for their time and trust, Rubin was eventually let into the lives of local families—as well as some of their homes to crash on floors and couches—as he continued his work throughout Central Maine.

What he has witnessed is a part of the country largely unbuffeted by the usual economic ups and downs seen elsewhere. For many in the area times are always tough. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita income has been increasing in Somerset County but has ranked at or near the bottom among Maine’s 16 counties throughout the many years of Rubin’s project. Residents get by through resourcefully cobbling together seasonal and part-time jobs, hunting, fix-it know-how and the support of their communities.

“When I met some of these families, I was completely in awe of them in many ways,” said Rubin, now an assistant professor of art in the Photography Program at Penn State University. “I think as an outsider and someone who didn’t have the background that they did, I was really quite taken by how they survived, by their strength, by their resourcefulness.”

Rubin sought to avoid the stereotypes of people broken by their struggles or heroically pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Influenced not only by legendary photographer Dorothea Lange but also anthropologist Clifford Geertz, Rubin aimed at creating a body of work that functioned as a “thick description,” a finely detailed document for understanding the context of human actions. Achieving that goal required time.

Since 1982, Rubin has returned to this project 10 times to capture daily rhythms and rituals and how the people he’d come to know changed, grew up, forged intense family bonds and frequently returned home despite finding good jobs elsewhere.

“I think so many of us—who move around different parts of the country, different parts of the world—we spend a lot of our lives looking for that sense of community. And these people have it,” Rubin said.

He’s planning to return again this summer to Maine, this time possibly shooting digitally rather than on his trusty Kodak Tri-X.

Steven Rubin’s photography has appeared in magazines including National Geographic, The New York Times, Stern and TIME. The series is on display at drkrm in Los Angeles, April 28 – May 26.

Do Process: Jennifer F. Schlesinger

This week I am featuring artists exhibiting in Verve Gallery’s Do Process exhibition, showcasing eight unique approaches to the photographic process.

I’m not quite sure how Jennifer Schlesinger does it all–she’s a mother, gallery director, and talented photographer and is consistently able to create evocative images and explore new ideas and processes. Jennifer has spent the past year exploring and perfecting the hand-coated Albumen Paper process. Jennifer’s work in this exhibition is from her new series, Here nor There. Her inspiration comes from observing her young daughter’s innocence and imagination. Jennifer’s images are metaphors for capturing the initial magical and mysterious moments of inspiration. The artist believes that when adults learn to harness our youthful imagination, then we bring forth innovation and progress to the larger world around us.

Jennifer graduated from the College of Santa Fe in 1998 with a B.A. in Photography and Journalism. Her work has been published online and in print in publications such as Black and White Magazine U.S and UK, Diffusion Magazine and many others. Schlesinger is represented in public collections, including the Huntington Botanical Art Collections (CA), The New Mexico Museum of Art and the New Mexico History Museum / Palace of the Governors Photo Archives. She has received several honors in recognition of her work including a Golden Light Award in Landscape Photography from the Maine Photographic Workshops in 2005. In 2007 she was awarded the Center for Contemporary Arts Photography Auction Award. Schlesinger is co-founder of finitefoto.com, a new media collective that investigates and promotes the intersection of photography and culture in the State of New Mexico.

The recipe for Albumen prints is simple, using everyday egg whites—“Break the eggs into a cup, carefully avoiding the mixture of yolk with the whites….”. Albumen is the sticky substance of egg whites and is the emulsion that is used to coat the paper. Albumen is the perfect process for Jennifer’s Here not There body of work. Albumen combines magical and scientific elements to produce a photographic image and is a perfect example of progress through invention. It is difficult to imagine the moment of inspiration where one of the greatest advancements in photography took place. Chicken yard egg white emulsion with table salt and silver nitrate bound the photographic chemicals to the paper effectively and cheaply. It was the first commercial process for producing multiple high quality photographic prints from a single negative. It leveled the photography playing field for the first time. It meant the medium was available for anyone to use; anyone could be a photographer. Moreover, it meant that pictures (portraits) were, for the first time, available to persons of ordinary means. Most of the photographs made in the 19th century were Albumen Prints. It remained the most viable and popular printing process for about 40 years. Albumen-coated paper was replaced by silver gelatin paper at the beginning of the 20th century.

Remembering 9/11: Carla Shapiro

We have all processed the horrific events of 9/11 in our own ways. We certainly can remember where we were when we heard the news and how it impacted those we knew and loved in New York and Washington, but also those we didn’t know. Manhattan-born photographer Carla Shapiro processed her own grief through a powerful project that allowed her to connect intimately with each person lost to the event.

After receiving her BFA from Syracuse University, Carla has created bodies of work about woman, aging, 9/11, beauty and decay for the past 25 years. She has received awards The Center for Photography at Woodstock, The Golden Light Awards at Maine Photographic Workshops, New Jersey Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, (2 times), NYFA SOS Grant, The O’Conner Foundation and Pratt Institute. Carla teaches at Pratt Institute and lives in upstate New York.

Obituaries to Prayer Flags: Four hours a day for five months I hand copied from the New York Times 2500 obituaries from 9/11. I hung each hand written piece of paper in lines across the stream in my yard to weather away as the sun faded the writing and the rain and snow washed it away. The words faded little by little as I photographed this installation to tell a story of “Obituaries to Prayer Flags”.

blowing in the wind

smoke


streaming sun

wet

17 wisp of sno






















black tears






















dripping light






















reflection in water






















spider print















wet print















clothes pins

Remembering 9/11: Carla Shapiro

We have all processed the horrific events of 9/11 in our own ways. We certainly can remember where we were when we heard the news and how it impacted those we knew and loved in New York and Washington, but also those we didn’t know. Manhattan-born photographer Carla Shapiro processed her own grief through a powerful project that allowed her to connect intimately with each person lost to the event.

After receiving her BFA from Syracuse University, Carla has created bodies of work about woman, aging, 9/11, beauty and decay for the past 25 years. She has received awards The Center for Photography at Woodstock, The Golden Light Awards at Maine Photographic Workshops, New Jersey Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, (2 times), NYFA SOS Grant, The O’Conner Foundation and Pratt Institute. Carla teaches at Pratt Institute and lives in upstate New York.

Obituaries to Prayer Flags: Four hours a day for five months I hand copied from the New York Times 2500 obituaries from 9/11. I hung each hand written piece of paper in lines across the stream in my yard to weather away as the sun faded the writing and the rain and snow washed it away. The words faded little by little as I photographed this installation to tell a story of “Obituaries to Prayer Flags”.

blowing in the wind

smoke


streaming sun

wet

17 wisp of sno






















black tears






















dripping light






















reflection in water






















spider print















wet print















clothes pins