There is so much to love in these images made in 2017 by the photographers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. There is the stunning composition, the split-second timing, the sheer beauty of light and color at play in the frame. But most of all, there is an invitation to see the world with playfulness, wonder and humanity. We invite you to take a long look, and to linger with both the bold and quiet moments of our lives this year, from the drama of the possibility of freedom coming to a man imprisoned for 20-plus years to the silence of snow falling on a lobster boat or the whimsy of a girl with pink hair.
This year’s solar eclipse was kind of a big deal. Even though it was only a partial eclipse here in Maine, it was the lead story for seemingly every news outlet, and our photo editor, Michele McDonald, assigned several staff photographers to cover it. I was working the afternoon/evening shift, so I arrived at the office just as the moon began its transit. The other photographers were already in position at Monument Square and L.L. Bean – locations with organized eclipse-related events. We weren’t aware of any other similar happenings, so Michele asked me to think of a place that might have a high likelihood of awestruck viewers and go there. A last-minute impulse propelled me toward Old Orchard Beach.
When I arrived, I felt immediately defeated. The beach was packed with people, but very few wore the telltale opaque sunglasses. Asking around, going from beachgoer to beachgoer, I was amazed by how few people were aware that a rare celestial event was unfolding directly overhead. A feeling of dread crept in – the heartbreaking realization that I might return to the office empty-handed. But then I saw them. About 100 feet away, a large group of people simultaneously raised homemade glasses to their eyes. I was desperate to get to them before the moment passed, running with such panic that my feet initially dug a hole in the sand like a cartoon character comically struggling to gain traction. By the time I finally reached the group, several of them had already left the scene and waded back into the surf. Still, five people remained and I managed to squeeze off a few shots before they were aware of my presence. I was initially angry with myself for not getting there sooner, and transferred that feeling onto this photo. At the end of the assignment, it was my least favorite shot from about six viable options. But Michele saw the photo without knowing the context of my disappointment, and she knew right away it was the one. Over the course of days, weeks and months, my own feelings toward it softened and eventually gave way to love. Today, I think it might be one of the best photos I’ve ever made, and I’m thankful Michele recognized it so quickly.
As I was driving north on I-95 to the Pittston Fair, I was questioning, maybe even slightly regretting, my idea to photograph small county fair pageants. Will it even be interesting? Am I wasting the paper’s time? I’d never been to a pageant before, but the minute I arrived at the fairgrounds I knew, at the very least, that I would have fun. The pageant director let me follow the girls around the whole afternoon. It wasn’t just a pageant, it was really a community event. At times I would look around and think, “This is probably almost exactly what it looked like 50 years ago.” I think that is what I like about this photo. There is no real way to tell when this photo was taken. There aren’t any cellphones or cars in the frame. Nothing but a little girl at a county fair, just like many little girls before her.
Workers from as far away as Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia came to Maine to help restore power to more than half the state’s homes and businesses left in the dark, many for days, following a fierce storm in late October. This crew from Gagnon Construction of New Brunswick, Canada, was working on power lines on Veranda Street in Portland.
I used a long lens to convey a sense of how many line workers were working together to restore power to Maine after this storm.
When fishermen on the Finlander began cleaning the 600 pounds of groundfish they had caught on a January day in the Gulf of Maine, with a flock of gulls trailing overhead, I knew a killer image lurked. It was a pretty intense situation. We were motoring back at full throttle, six hours from the fishing grounds to port in Eliot. Often I was positioned precariously over a large crate of fish, holding my flash in the air with my left hand, the camera to my eye in the right, and my body balancing on the edge, trying to put the camera where it needed to be and keep from falling in with the fish as the boat sped along. I shot nonstop for what seemed like an hour, trying to put all the elements together: the birds in the right place, fishermen’s faces and body language correctly articulated, and the subject of their efforts – cod, haddock and pollock – prominently displayed close to the lens for emphasis. At first the sun was partially obscured behind the clouds, but then it emerged beautifully, creating contrast and separation of elements that made this frame jump off the screen when I was editing through the few thousand images from the shoot.
If there’s a theme to my contributions to this year’s collection, it’s learning when to ignore preconceived notions. And the courtroom may have been the perfect venue for that realization. Anthony Sanborn Jr. had been convicted of murder in 1992 when he was a teenager. Nearly three decades later, new evidence suggested that police had settled on Sanborn before considering other possible suspects. In light of that, Sanborn was in Cumberland County Courthouse for a bail hearing. The dramatic scene included a key witness who recanted her testimony from the original trial, among other bombshells detailed by our crime reporter, Matt Byrne. When it was clear that Judge Joyce Wheeler was going to grant bail, Sanborn covered his face and wept into his hands. As he cried, I didn’t take any photos. There was no use. “The editors will never run a photo that doesn’t show his face,” I said to myself. So I just sat there with the lens trained on the scene waiting for him to lower his hands. But then his attorney, Amy Fairfield, raised her hands to her face and suddenly it became a powerful image. I snapped a single frame, almost involuntarily.
When I got back to the office, it was clear that this was the strongest photo of the hearing. And even though it didn’t show Sanborn’s face, it ran as an A1 centerpiece in the next day’s paper, proving once more that sometimes the best kind of learning is unlearning.
Track meets are exhilarating. And chaotic. And challenging. There are endless moments of photographic opportunity amid the many different events. This image was made as I followed the relay and looked for emotion at the connection. Often it seems impossible to capture the two together. When it works, the endeavor is all worthwhile, freezing the effort and agony of competition for further and frequent reflection.