The Contemporary Photographers From Maine You Need to Know

Photo of Christopher Crosby
4 December 2017

Tropes of Maine culture begin with the sea and rarely venture out of sight of water. The works of contemporary artists — especially photographers — work to dispel myths by exposing them, either looking harder at life along the shore or away from it. These contemporary Maine photographers often jar or surprise viewers into challenging what they think they know about the state.

Jacob Hessler

Camden-based fine-art photographer Jacob Hessler is known from his landscape images that are at once spellbinding and nostalgic. His eye captures expansive skies and seas. After studying photography at Santa Barbara’s Brooks Institute and graphic design at Parsons in New York City, Hessler has exhibited at several Maine galleries, including the Walsh Gallery in Rockland.

Small planes at sunset. #nofilter #capeair

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Chris Becker

Becker’s portraits of people and places explore, in his own words, time. He’s best known for “painting” objects at night with precision lighting, illuminating them while the background is dark, a technique he likens to printing. Becker has shown works across the country and has worked for major media publications.

Jeffery Becton

Merging images together, Becton creates brilliant, surreal works at once haunting and familiar. The dreamlike quality catches the viewer between two overlapping worlds, plumbing the subconscious for logic. Becton has been praised as an heir to Andrew Wyeth, channeling the painter in new, creative ways. With solo exhibits across the country, Becton is a leading luminary in Maine’s art scene.

Upon a Time | © Jeffrey Becton
Empty Cage, 2011 | Courtesy of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

A former environmental and civil rights lawyer, Edwards, for the past decade, has turned to photographing hidden aspects of Maine island life. His photos capture the dignity and grit with which inhabitants of isolated islands live as their traditional ways of life become increasingly more difficult. Often these photos show civilization at the edge of nature or marooned on physical or metaphorical islands. Edwards’ works have been featured nationally and internationally.

Shoshannah White

Shoshannah White | © Shoshannah White

White’s works have a proprietary feel, as though the viewer snapped images of iceberg, frozen weir, and choppy seas themselves. The intimacy has a dreamlike quality or as though the images were Polaroids from the distant past. White has shown her work in Italy and across the United States and regularly exhibits solo displays in Maine.

D.M. Witman

Dispensing with the lens — and in some instances the camera itself — part of Witman’s work captures ghostly imprints left on landscapes as well as or the monumental and raw grandeur of nature. A college teacher, she has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, garnering praise for her unusual techniques, from using salted paper to using pinhole cameras to capturing the slow movement of slugs as they navigate across photo paper.

Gail Skudera

Lady Slippers | © Gail Skudera

Working with found family photos or taking images close and personal to her, Skudera uses photographic techniques to transfer the images into an 0ff-loom weaving process, giving them their signature look, juxtaposing objects between a historical moment and the present. The result are a little surreal yet timeless. The Lewiston-based artist has exhibited since the 1980s and has shown her works nationally and internationally.

Cole Caswell

Using tintypes, environmental data sets and certain sampling procedures, Caswell investigates ever-changing geography using a variety of traditional and modern techniques. Currently living on Peaks Island, Caswell has exhibited extensively throughout the country and is a regular presence in Maine galleries.

Deserted American Dreaming | © Cole Caswell

Johanna Moore

Re-creating the look and feel of grainy photos from the past, Moore uses pinhole cameras to take long-exposure shots of everyday scenes, thereby elevating them. One of her most recent projects compiled pictures taken from 120 pinhole cameras (made from tin cans) placed along the Kennebec, capturing the sun as it crossed the sky. The results look nothing like their surroundings: They’re abstract, ambient, even celestial. Her photographs have been displayed at the Maine Museum of Photographic Arts.

Canal Street Lewiston | © Johanna Moore

Elke Morris

A photography professor at Bates College in Lewiston, Morris is best known for her images of lakes and waterfront developments in California, where the collision of heavy development and scarce water resources creates a surreal juxtaposition. Her works have been shown from New York City to Germany, and she’s a regular exhibitor in Maine.

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