- by Carol Standish
Three Great Gifts for Maine Lovers
Night Train at Wiscasset Station (Down East Books; 192pp; $21.95) contains perhaps the most moving representation in words and pictures, of Maine's vanished rural way of life available today. First published by Doubleday in 1977, in barely 20 years the book has become a collector's item. To the great credit of the editors, the book was republished this June. Text by Lew Dietz accompanies the breathtaking, bittersweet black and white photographs of Kosti Ruohomaa in an exploration of life in Maine in the decades following World War II.
In the forward written by the photographer's friend, Andrew Wyeth, Rouhomaa's work is described as having a "mysterious sense of withdrawn reality." Rouhomaa was a Maine Finn. Wyeth suggests that the photographer's heritage contributed to his genius. "Northern people like the Finns, withdrawn thought they may appear, are capable of extreme passion." Lew Dietz's heartfelt and incisive essays on the character of Maine, the people, land, villages, rivers, forests and coast unsentimentally compliment the stunning photographs. Congratulations and thank you, Down East Books for making this unsung classic available to another generation of lovers of Maine.
An Eye for the Coast (Tilbury House; 224pp;$25.) published this summer is also a collection of Maine photographs accompanied by text, but in this case the text is more explanatory than ruminative and the photographs document a much earlier era. Eric Hudson was a late ninteenth century Boston artist and sailor who developed a keen interest in photography. His canvasses, mostly seascapes and ship portraits achieved wide acclaim in his day but Hudson's photographs and glass plate negatives were stored undiscovered in the attic of his Monhegan Island summer home for almost 100 years.
Donation of this photographic treasure trove to the Maine State Museum by Hudson's daughter suggested the idea of a book to Maine historians, Earle Shettleworth (director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission) and William Bunting (author of A Day's Work review and other books of historic photographs). With the assistance of martitime historian, Paul Stubing, Shettleworth and Bunting selected, identified and provided text and captions for 150 turn of the century duotone photographs. Images include panoramas of New England harbors, portraits of coasting schooners and fishing boats, sailors and fishermen, early Monhegan summer cottages and cottage interiors all taken with an artist's eye.
In startling contrast to Hudson's quaint and charming black and white photographs of turn of the century coastal activity and Ruohomaa's moody evocations of Maine at mid-century, Maine A View from Above (Down East Books; 96pp; $30.) is a dazzle of color and dizzying perspective. Professional photographer, Charles Feil has combined his enthusiasm for his work and is avocation, flying small planes to produce a truly unique collection of 100 color aerial photgraphs. Feil has an unerring ability to spot for compellingly beautiful patterns from the air. His eye is drawn to grace whether he finds it in the blue waters of a creek meandering deliciously through the brilliant green of a salt marsh or in the early morning shadows of spring trees in a mobile home park near Brunswick.
Although townscapes, factories and forest patterns evoke immense visual pleasure, Feil is at his best photographing water. "Lobster Boat Amongst the Ice Floes" an aerial of outer Pemaquid Harbor is used for the endpapers of the book, printed in only two colors, blue and white which emphasizes the patterns of the shape of the ice. In additon to their artistic excellence, Feilís aerials speak eloquently of the endurance of the people who seek to live in harmony with the supreme beauty of our state.