What's in a Picture?|
Uncovering the Hidden Stories in Vintage Maine Photographs
Joshua F. Moore
Down East, 110 pp, 50 photos, $14.99
Thirteen years or so ago, Down East Magazine started featuring a vintage Maine photograph each month to satisfy its "history loving readers." This book is a compilation of some of the most intriguing old photos published in this popular (and long-lived) regional glossy magazine. Although the idea ran counter to the established presentation of rich, full-color spreads and advertising, the "backward looking" black and whites have been tremendously popular.
The column's editor, Joshua F. Moore has selected some of the most intriguing images for this collection and has included a foreword in which he explains his process of unfolding the story told by each photograph. "...the images that made for great photographs at the turn of the twentieth century contain the same key elements as those that are most memorable today: dramatic action, careful composition, and a handful of noteworthy details."
Clarity is also a critical element. "A tack-sharp image...immediately creates a connection [between image and viewer] no matter if the scene depicted transpired in 1980 or 1890...I attempt to share images that not only tell something about the way life in Maine was, but also help provide some insight into why the Maine way of life looks and feels the way it does today."
His selections do indeed inform the present, sometime, spookily. In one eccentric advertising image from made in 1917, a delicate female dancer strikes a precarious pose on an outcropping of seaweed covered rocks, with arms aloft leading the viewer's eye to the massive, multi-turreted Passaconaway Inn in Cape Neddick. (The lumpen building would be demolished for lack of business in 1937, a victim of the Depression.)
Another haunting image is that of Charles Lindbergh checking his own oil during a stopover at Portland Municipal Airport in 1929. (He was flying his bride to be, Ann Morrow and her family back to New York from their summer home in North Haven.)
Maine photographer Chansonetta Stanley Emmons was the sister of the Stanley "Steamer" brothers but never used their inventions as subject for her work. Instead, she chose to record the rural life of Maine in her photographs. Moore chose to include a late self-portrait, taken shortly before her death in 1937. He says, "[F]or any artist, the ultimate test of bravery is to turn the lens or paintbrush upon oneself. (She aimed her 1904 Century five-by-seven-inch camera at her bedroom mirror.)
Air raid drills at a Rockport school during the Cold War, frozen side wheel ferries, floods and infernos and stuffed moose, even, a photo of the first daylight parade of the Klu Klux Klan in the U.S. (in 1923 in Milo) has caught Moore's eye. The collection is both fascinating and informative in its variety of subject matter, the quality of the images and the breadth of years spanned. The book certainly does tell us--quite poignantly--how we got from then to now.