Nominated by Susan Danly, Curator of Photography, Graphics, and Contemporary Art, Portland Museum of Art
"Denise Froehlich's photographs capture the poetic side of rural life in Maine today, but not in a traditionally picturesque mode or as an expression of the natural sublime, and certainly not as an idealized agrarian vision. Instead, in delicately hued, split-toned gelatin prints she draws attention to the details of her everyday life in the backwater of an old Kennebunkport farm where she raises chickens and grows vegetables for her family. Froehlich deftly silhouettes the branches of a leafless apple tree, frames the bearded head of a broad-shouldered man with drooping sunflowers, and captures the delicate gestures of a small girl enveloped in an oversized hand-knit sweater. For her, life abounds in the details of the ordinary and the readily observable. With the softened edges, deep shadows, and warm tones of her black and white prints she is able to imbue her subjects with a sense of introspection, a feel for the change of the seasons, and an atmosphere of quiet reverence for nature. This is the modest and human side of Maine life that doesn't overreach, but fills the soul."
Nominated by Wally Mason, Director, University of Maine Museum of Art
"I am nominating Michael Alpert based on a close engagement with his work over the past four years, culminating this winter in an exhibition at the museum here in Bangor. To my mind, Michael's commitment to recording the unvarnished Maine is without peer among contemporary photographers. Ralph Waldo Emerson's dictum that 'Pictures must not be too picturesque' seems to resonate in Michael's photographs. They are often spare, detailed accounts of who we are rendered with unparalleled precision. These are places we drive by daily without consideration; fortunately Michael is often there, tirelessly recording the built environment in Maine for our closer inspection. His images often seem less concerned with the natural beauty of the landscape and appear to concentrate on the houses, barns, factories, and monuments that are signposts of our history. There is a quiet, awful beauty to these moments that have ripened beyond maturity. We are fortunate to be the benefactors of his conceit."
Nominated by Stephen Halpert, Curator, Westbrook College Campus Gallery at the University of New England
"One of the strong and pleasing characteristics I find in Dirk McDonnell's photographs is his play of opposing forces: dark and light, for instance, or large and small, or the tension in composition such as diagonal smokestacks against the edges of the frame or these same stacks soaring upward against the dark heavy smoke-like clouds that are pressing down. I especially like the simultaneous tranquility and strength, so much the character of Maine, as in the silent tower that fills the frame or the snow covered mountain of gravel that might be Katahdin without us having any point of reference. These seem to capture the very qualities I associate with Maine: its people, its landscape, its built environment. His images of great wooden barns, for instance, encompass all of this, at the same time both particular to Maine and universal."
Nominated by Bruce Brown, Curator, Center for Maine Contemporary Art
"Time spent with the work of Thomas Birtwistle is time spent in Maine today. This talented photographer from Harmony, a rural area north of Skowhegan, manages to lift the ordinary into a moment that changes our way of seeing and thinking about the everyday stuff around us. His eye is sharp: he is bemused by what he sees, just as we are amused by his take on things.
"Thomas is not interested in going after the grand heroic statement or panoramic vistas with billowing, dramatic clouds. There are always the telltale signs and hints of a human presence in his work, yet I can't think of a photograph in which a person is portrayed. What you see are the results of human activity, not the activity itself. In his county fair still life images, for instance, the farmer has carefully nurtured his vegetables and selected the best for competition. The jury has met and awarded prizes. The human story is complete and the dramatic moment of awarding prizes is over. What is left for us to see are the vegetables lying inert, separated within cubicles. Thomas' image is subtly nuanced, and quite witty.
"In his demolition derby series he closes in on his subject to highlight the color and abstract shape of the car's body and window in an artful way. We understand the driver's passion for the competition simply by seeing the red wheel. We don't need to see the entire car, the driver, or the derby itself. Even his photographs of wild animals on display are surreal juxtapositions that combine natural and artificial environments. Can you not help but smile at the sad absurdity of a once-proud wild creature stuck in a room cluttered with items it would never have run across in life?"