Faces and Stories from a Small Town
Down East Books, 112pp, $24.95
Living in Camden for the last 18 years has made Patrisha McLean an ardent convert to the virtues of small town living. In fact, she says, the experience has "made me never want to live in a big city again." It's a good guess that she has had some experience with big cities given the fact that she is married to Don McLean, of "American Pie" fame, who continues to be a blockbuster performer worldwide.
Patrisha has thrived in Camden, working as a feature writer for the Camden Herald and building a reputation as a children's portrait photographer. Maine Street is an impressive product both of these skills. It is also a very moving personal example of her appreciation of her physical surroundings and her fellow townspeople. Husband, Don, says in an after note, "My wife...has a wonderful gift. She can sit with someone for ten minutes and learn more about them than I could in ten years. People like Pat, and that's really what you see in her photos: their reaction to her."
The variety of McLean's subjects certainly attests to the fact that "people like her." In the book she presents patricians and hard-working folk and people just barely getting by with the same warm appreciation. Everyone has a spark that she seems to recognize and is able to bring out in both her photographs and interviews.
Roger Jones, Sr. and Lowell Jones, Sr. are barbers and have been barbers in Camden for 50 years. One brother is outspoken, the other reserved. The brothers are different in more than deportment. They dress differently. They charge differently. But with fifty years sharing the same space, you know that those differences are barely scalp deep. McLean's photos of the barber shop suggest the calm confidence and concentration of two men happy in their work and world.
Betty Alexander is a single mother with a son in Iraq. She cashiers at Megunticook Market where she participates in a constant stream of chatter with her customers. One of the favorite subjects is the flock of mallards that winter in the store's parking lot. McLean has photographed Betty sitting on a bench in front of the store surrounded by ducks and plow piles of snow. She is leaning toward the camera, beaming.
Arthur Andrews is the penultimate Maine lobsterman. He's fished out of Camden Harbor longer than any other. At one point he and his wife got into the retail lobster business and it darn near took over their lives. They had to close it so Arthur could have time to lobster...which is what he wanted to do in the first place. At seventy two, he's given up winter fishing and goes out a little later "of a morning" but he's still out there and he's still smiling...as McLean's photograph of Andrews at the wheel attests.
Maine Street includes almost eighty more of these rich cameos. If you're a people person, you'll flip through the pages of this book often. Enjoy!