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Every year I like to review and compile my favorite images. In doing so this past week, I realized how few images I took in 2022 just for my own creativity. I absolutely love working with my clients and creating images they will love, however, I also love creating images for myself. I guess I have a New Year’s resolution now, to create more personal work.
Sometimes I Wonder12/5/2022
Photo Blog, Photos by Ann Marie Ford
Sometimes I wonder where I’ll finally fit in. Where is home?
I am a third-generation son of the beautiful small community of Sharon, Massachusetts. This has always been my home, and but for a brief period, I have lived here my entire 66 years. However, as much as Sharon is and always will be home, I have always felt a bit disjointed and restless with the thought of staying put.
I have had two wonderful careers in this town. I have enjoyed sixteen years as a teacher and twenty plus years as a police officer. The experiences, the people, the relationships, are all precious to me. However, even with general success there has been an uneasy sense of not truly belonging.
A few years ago Ann Marie and I bought a nice vacation home in the wilds of Maine. It is a wonderful place of relaxation and solitude. However, after a few days, or sometimes weeks, I begin to miss something... I think it’s home. But when I get home, I start to miss Maine. I also miss Italy, Greece, or some other places I’ve never been to.
I loved Manteo, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks. I thought that would be a place where I could fit in. It’s beautiful and the people were very friendly. Sadly, down deep, I know I would get restless there as well. I would eventually miss Sharon and Maine, but, right now, I miss Manteo…lol.
Dedication to a cause or purpose has been equally challenging. I have been both absorbed and intoxicated by music’s siren call. However, I always came short of giving myself to her as an ultimate and faithful lover. Music, as with most passions, is jealously unyielding in her need for utter and singular commitment. Oftentimes I would encounter the personalities of those that made the total commitment. How do they become so disciplined and singularly focused?
Then again, maybe it’s just my human laziness. Perhaps, I was simply not willing to spend countless hours on the mechanics to get to the place of effortless expression? However, it seems that so many untrained musicians find joy, true joy, in the simple Saturday night fiddle soiree, compared to those that pursued the perfection of in-depth professional music studies. Unfortunately, I don’t play fiddle.
I sometimes have a wild dream of the future and imagine a time where we go to a concert not just to hear performers, but to perform as well. Instead of lighting up our cell phones or applauding at the conclusion of the night, the “audience” psycho-kinetically creates a musical response, which is played back to the performers, kind of like the music sequence in Close Encounters where both aliens and earthlings connect through sympathetic musical tones. We would no longer be passive receptors, but participants in the magical dialogue of musical exchange. How cool would that be? Sounds like a plot line to a Vonnegut story.
Where is home? I love when the character Ben Rumson from the musical Paint Your Wagon, sings the song, I was Born Under a Wandering Star.
I was born under a wandrin' star
Mud can make you prisoner, and the plains can bake you dry
Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry
Home is made for comin' from, for dreams of goin' to
Which with any luck will never come true
I was born under a wandrin' star
I was born under a wandrin' star
Finally, I like C. S. Lewis’s contention that our wandering, our restlessness, or sense that we are never quite home, is the exact proof that we indeed were not created for this world. That thought does give me some sense of settlement and relief. But to again quote Ben Rumson;
If I get to Heaven tie me to a tree
Or I’ll begin to roam and soon you know where I will be….
The piano feels like home. Tie me to a piano and I’ll be sure to practice, even if I get restless. Then again, traveling through Italy with Stanley Tucci would be good.
Senior year is a special time in a high school student's life. Having your pictures taken is part of recording it. I love working with all of these fantastic seniors to create memories and give them something to always be able to look back at when they are older. Madddie's session was another great one, filled with lots of laughs and of capturing of different looks.
She was just as excited as I was and was so into it. I love that! I couldn't have asked for a better subject.
The first thing I noticed when Maddie got out of the car was her eyelashes, they are gorgeous.
She was more than willing to try anything and had many ideas of her own.
The many different moods we created were awesome!
She brought along her dog, which I love. It makes for such genuine reactions and expressions, from the seniors, too.
It was so nice to see older brother, Andrew, who I photographed when he was a senior.
Maddie, you were so awesome to work with. I know how much you love taking and being in pictures, so you have an eye for what looks good, and you didn't look good, you looked AMAZING!! Thanks for making me love my job even more than I already do! Best to you this senior year!
Just look how gorgeous Samantha is! We have so much fun getting these types of images.
The session typically starts with us chatting and that pretty much continues the whole time. I love getting to know my seniors if we haven't met before. If we have, I love catching up. My husband assists me and he loves to get to know everyone, too.
We walk around and I see what catches my eye for lighting and backgrounds and framing. The senior also has input into what they might like. If they're not sure, I have no problem suggesting things. I am not shy and love to guide people. I like to have each senior come away from their session loving the experience . The senior year is an important milestone in their life. I want to create a positive memory for them.
I get such a thrill out of sharing some of the shots right away. I just love doing this.
Bringing along your boy friend or your family usually provides for added fun.
Outfit changes are encouraged. It's nice to get a variety of different looks.
These images are from a session with Samantha Dunham. We spent about an hour together and had lots of laughs and I saw some pretty great expressions that didn't make the final cut. I love how comfortable she felt and I definitely knew when something I suggested just wasn't her style.
Enjoy your senior year Samantha. I hope our session added to making the year special. Thanks for making me happy. I loved photographing you!
Belfast, Maine is a place I love to photograph. It is rich with textures and colors. As my husband and I were walking up the street in front of one of our "go to" places, Rollie's, I noticed his reflection in the window. I am a sucker for reflection pictures, so I asked him to stop and lean against the wall. Let me explain what I saw and how I composed the picture.
I used the rule of thirds to put him off center in the image for a more interesting composition.
The window served as a frame for the subject and as leading lines bring the viewers eyes to him. The tops of the buildings in the reflection also served as leading lines, as do the vertical lines under the window frame.
The repeating color of red in the window frame and the chairs, gives a unifying element to the composition . The repeating patterns of vertical lines in the windows of the building in the background, the slats in the red chairs and moldings around and below the window, also add unity to the composition.
The story telling of the image is my favorite part. Look where I am! I'm in a really cool old brick town with the guy I love, who is willing to be my subject whenever I ask.
This one is all about lines, mood , color, subject and reflection. I know the telephone pole is distracting, yet I decided not to take it out for 2 reasons. It frames the building and the American flag repeated the colors. I took it at this angle to emphasize all the horizontal lines and repeating rectangles. I love all the colors, red is my favorite color. The cloudy day enhances the mood. I have a fondness for this location because I used it as one of the locations for my daughter's engagement pictures. Emily and Corey love Belfast, also.
This is a different view of the same building. The colors really give it interest and style.
This one was almost a "delete" for me, but then I fell in love with it. I couldn't stop analyzing it once I took a closer look.
Our reflection is framed within a frame, within more frames.
The leading lines lead the viewer to look to the left of the image to get a slice of what the street looks like. I also like the fact that we kinda have that updated "American Gothic" look .
With any image, everyone sees it differently. I, of course, am more emotionally invested in this image, which adds to my liking it. I would suspect that others would find it too busy and not like it or say it's just, "ehh." But that's okay, if you're still reading this, at least I may have inspired how you approach your future compositions.
Sometimes, you just go with what you get. I was attempting to do a portrait of my 3 grandsons when the youngest one was only a month old. This image is the best one I got. None of the other ones were portrait worthy, however, I love them!
This is how thrilled the older two were when we got started.
Yeah, this was going well.
Can't even see Luke.
Johnny's gone. Maddie tries to help out with adding in baby James. Luke is more interested in looking at James's hand.
Luke has to be bribed with some chips and Maddie is helping out again.
Johnny's back, but thing are about to really go south.
Potato chips are for smashing in your face, right?
Let's both do it!
Apparently, the chips are the focus.....
but not for James, he's getting bored.
I'm not sure Lukey should be trusted with James. It's a good thing mom is there.
Well, this is a nice look for both of them.
This one is very cute of the two of them.
Look at Jamesy's face, he already gets not to trust Lukey.
For years, Ann Marie and I have vacationed in Maine, but only recently - six years ago, in fact, we purchased a vacation home in Appleton, Maine. We used to wonder exactly what that phrase on the sign as you enter the state, "Maine, the way life should be" meant. Was it referring to the natural beauty of Maine? The slower pace of everything up here? The people? Well, of course the phrase refers to all of those points and more. However, for us, the power of Maine is in its people and their willingness to build and value relationships.
Maine was founded in 1820 by some very rugged and hardy individuals that survived the challenges of both land and weather through arduous work and by relying on the help and kindness of their neighbors. Even if those neighbors resided miles away. We believe that genetic character has been successfully passed down through the generations.
There is a bifurcated display of Maine ingenuity and kindness that I think you’ll be able to see in Ann Marie’s photographs of the Letourneau’s. The couple featured in this blog. It’s also exciting for us to meet such interesting and kind people that hold such a remarkable zest for life. Again, the talent of Ann Marie is evident as she captures not only their likeness, but their very being. You can see it in their eyes. We first met Jessie as one of the builders of our timber frame barn. During the build he was talkative, knowledgeable, skillful, and very friendly. His flowing “Maine” beard a natural attraction for Ann Marie’s photographic eye.
Jessie was just as excited to have his picture taken. Like two kids during Christmas they created some neat pictures. All throughout the build as we came to know all the workers, Jessie continuously praised his “wonderful” wife, Lily, and told us that we would have to meet her sometime.
I’ve always liked the name, Lily, since reading The Dead, by James Joyce. It begins, “Lily the caretaker’s daughter….”. It turns out that Lily Letourneau is a “caretaker” also, as she is a school counselor. Ann Marie went to their home to photograph Jessie and Lily amongst their menagerie of animals. Unfortunately, I had a conflict and could not accompany my wife.
No problem, through Ann Marie’s photographic captures I feel as though I spent hours getting to know Lily. Her kindness and inner sparkle are very evident through her eyes and smile. From these photos I just feel like I want to know these people better.
Ann-Marie was excited to tell me about how Lily described Jesse. Lily took out a book titled, Moving Heavy Things, by Jan Adkins. She said something along the lines of "This book describes him, he can move anything heavy like when the Egyptians built the pyramids , they didn't have heavy machinery. That's Jesse, he can figure out how to move anything using brain power."
I think if Ann Marie could have made the Letourneau’s pet pig get his floppy ears out of the way, the family pig would have displayed a bit of a sparkle in his eye as well. Jessie originally purchased him to raise for slaughter, but grace and kindness prevailed and he is now part of the family.
Their 3 dogs are very much a part of their family. The dogs love them as much as they love the dogs, even though one was not willing to be photographed. The cat was pretty shy, too.
There are so many great images that capture their personalities and relationship. That's what important, relationships and treating each other right.
Ann Marie is going to fight me about this blog as I am complimenting her talent on her own blog site. But, I’m kinder in Maine - and after all, I want her to make me a nice supper on Father’s Day!
Ahhh, Maine The Way Life Should Be.
Another guest blog By my husband, John Ford.
I need to chime in here. When I took the first picture of Jesse during the barn build, I knew I wanted to take more. The beard, the twinkling blue eyes and the sweetness mixed in with the rugged appearance, was a story waiting for my camera to tell. I asked him if I could do a photo session with him and he said sure. As time when on and we got to know Jesse better, I knew I wanted to include his wife in the story. The way he lit up when he spoke of her, was so sweet.
On the day we scheduled to meet at his house, I brought my neighbor, the other Anne Ford, along with me to help with the lighting. We so enjoyed our visit.
Lily was warm and inviting and offered us fresh baked muffins. I learned that she had also studied photography and fully understood why I wanted to capture them and their relationship. How exciting is that? She went to the same college as my daughter and has a very similar job,
I would be remiss not to mention the amazing house they had. There were so many interesting features; a beautiful staircase ,columns brought all the way from a prison in New York , a window seat, etched glass windows on the doors, victorian style wallpaper, and a beautiful sunny porch. Out the window, you could sneak a view of the ocean because the house was on a hill.
Photography has led me to be able to be around so many interesting people. I enjoy each moment spent learning about them. It is not just about capturing their image, it is that, but it's also about relationships. Everyone I photograph becomes a new friend that enhances my life.
Guest Blog by John Ford
One of the nice things about traveling from Sharon, MA to Appleton, Maine is the dedicated four hours of reflection time spent getting there. Sure, most people would probably say that’s too long to travel, but I’ve found that time to be a welcomed reprise from the world and the prerequisite for entering “Maine Time,” which is far different than “Massachusetts Time.” In Maine, it takes a minimum of a half hour to get anywhere. Time is protracted in Maine, and I’ve come to love that, too.
Often during the rides, Ann-Marie and I listen to audio books on our way North ( Remind me sometime to give you some great book recommendations). Other times, she listens to photography pod casts with her ear buds, and I just enjoy the quiet time thinking. I usually tell myself that during this trip I’m going to focus on some issues and work through some solutions in my mind. Or, I plan to to formulate a nice story to blog about. However, I find that my focus lasts for about 30 seconds, and then, like a frenetic squirrel running from tree to tree, my thoughts start to bounce from one random thought to another. During the most recent trip I couldn’t help but to think, “Do smart people have the capacity to think longer thoughts, and is that why they’re smart?”
Although, I also realize that while I struggle to focus, my brain is also competing with my musings by consciously and subconsciously computing the millions of pieces of information that is required to keep my car traveling safely on the road. It’s probably a good thing that my focus is overridden by self-preservation.
In any event, here are a couple of random thoughts I had during our recent trip to Maine.
One of these random thoughts was about sleep. I could write a whole blog on sleep. When I worked the midnight shift ( ten years in total) I came to truly appreciate the body’s need for unadulterated shut-eye. My sleep pattern became so disrupted and disjointed that, at one point I was close to hospitalization. Thank goodness those days (and nights) are in the past.
In my 66 years, or approximately 23,496 nights of potential sleep, I have had plenty of good slumber. Yet, during this life, only a very small number of nights of remarkable sleep. The kind of rest that feels like you’re waking from another world. Maybe three remarkable sleeps total - and two could be credited to whatever drug they give you before an Upper GI and a Colonoscopy.
The best natural sleep I can remember occurred when I was 12 years old.I had the
the best sleep I had ever had. It was the summer of 1968. I was on a New Hampshire camping trip with my family. The campground had a small pond and a row boat which could be used at will. Rowing a boat by myself was a thrill to a 12 year old and I spent hours perfecting my maritime skills in the warmth of our late August vacation. Exhausted, I later returned to our old ten-man, cabin style, tent. The pungency of the thick, slightly mildewed, canvass was the comforting smell of those rare vacations that we took. It’s funny how your brain can magically recall odors.
I feel bad for kids nowadays. Today, most families don’t go camping and if they do they usually have one of those fancy nylon LL Bean jobs that beautifully repels rain and can be put up in seconds. Our tent took hours to put together and my father would systematically lay the parts out before my mother and I were assigned our places for the moment of truth. Something like the itinerant tent raisers at the Barnum and Bailey Circus. We also had those foldable cots that were awesome, particularly when compared to constantly deflating air mattresses, or the hardness of the ground.
I had fallen asleep on one one of those cots and I awoke a lifetime later with the setting sun playing on my face. My hair was wet with sweat and my body truly felt as if I had been transported to another place. I was in a fog, but also truly energized. What made the waking moments even more eerie was that as I peered outside the tent there was no-one to be found. My parents and siblings were absent. In fact, the whole campground seemed deserted. If I had reached the age of shaving, I would not have been surprised if I had found a Rip Van Winkle beard sporting from my face. As I stood alone outside the tent, the world seemed so lonely and scary, but it also felt so wonderfully refreshed and exhilarating, due to this unearthly sleep I had just physically experienced.
I didn’t know at the age of 12 that some 54 years later during time transport to Maine, I would be again reliving that experience. But, that’s what “Maine Time” does, it transports you - sometimes to places that are neatly tucked away on a camping cot in 1968.
I find myself hoping that someday I can experience a sleep like that again. In the meantime, I can look forward to my next colonoscopy. I think it’s scheduled for 2024. “Hey, Ann Marie, did I miss the exit?”
Everybody has a story and if you’re lucky enough to have the time, most people are willing to share theirs. That’s what I like about retirement and the State of Maine. I have the time to engage people and solicit their stories, and almost everyone in Maine is friendly enough to engage in conversation.
Recently, Ann Marie and I took a trip to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, to visit her parents. She asked me if on the way we could stop at a small art gallery in Boothbay Village to view the collection of photographs from the recent Maine Photography Competition. I’m always up for appreciating artistic creations, so we stopped and entered the Boothbay Region Art Foundation Gallery. We were warmly greeted by a very friendly, colorfully attired, woman who was shuffling some paperwork. In her Maine vernacular, she encouraged us to enjoy the show. It was early afternoon on a Sunday and we pleasantly had the entire gallery to ourselves.
There were so many wonderful images to view and absorb. As we dawdled in front of each photograph, we discussed our likes and general impressions of each work. I couldn’t help but think that many of Ann Marie’s photos were equally as good as the finalists.
One of the photographs to win an honorable mention was taken by Rick Reynolds who formally resided in our home town of Sharon, MA. Rick now resides in Cushing, Maine. His photograph was a beautiful black and white shot of a Maine lighthouse being embraced by the sea under a canopy of a forbidding storm clouds. What a small world it is, I thought.
After about an hour of enjoyment, I finally settled on my favorite. It was taken by Maine photographer, Michael Hagenbuch of Tenants Harbor. His photograph entitled, “Home To Home” just tugged at me emotionally. I found myself unable to pull away. In my opinion, works of art have to employ two essential ingredients; they have to have interesting subject matter and the work has to critically draw an emotional connection with the viewer. Mr. Hagenbuch’s photo certainly spoke to me personally, in both ways.
In the center of his photograph, your eye is drawn to a pristine, white, federal home set on a snow covered yard. The house is darkly juxtaposed and framed by a twelve paned window, encased in an equally beautiful raised panel alcove. I love the perspective that the artist drew upon. It reminds me of all those Flemish painters that would pose their subjects under some window light and then paint them from the adjoining room or hallway. For me, the emotion that is felt is that of peaceful solitude. Yet, there is also an element of inherent loneliness that it evokes as well. A kind of pulling into one’s self. We’re observing the distant beauty outside, while simultaneously being contained and separated in this darker place. A place that feels lonely.
I immediately conclude that Michael Hagenbuch has to be over 60 years of age - although, I don’t really know anything about him. I ruminate to myself that after the age of 60 you start to see the beauty of life as it is contained within our own mortality. That’s the emotion that Hagenbuch’s work is evoking in me. I also start to hope God is gracious to me and allows me to leave this earth before Ann Marie. I’ve never been so good at loneliness.
Okay, I rant, and wax a bit too maudlin. With Ann Marie’s approval, I decide I have to purchase this photograph. “Wow”, I think to myself, it’s my favorite in the entire gallery, and it’s priced the cheapest at $150!
I beckon our Maine host over to tell her I’m interested in purchasing. She tells me she just loves the work as well, but she then pauses when she looks at the accompanied display card. “Oh dear,”… she states. “This red dot indicates that the work is already sold”. I express my disappointment and remark that the artist could have received three times the requested purchase price. She agrees.
Amazingly, the woman then tells me that she is going to call the artist and see if he would consider making an additional reproduction for me. She took my phone number and promised to get back to me.
Ann Marie and I weren’t at her parents house ten minutes when my phone rang. “Hi, John? This is June from the gallery. I spoke with the artist and he is willing to make another copy at the same cost for you, and the member that purchased this one is willing to let you take his while he waits for the copy”.
We jumped in the car and rushed back to the gallery and thanked June for her efforts. Two women and a dog entered the gallery right after us and inquired if they could bring in their very well behaved dog. “Sure”, June cheerfully responded. Gosh, I love Maine - no pretense or snobbery here, even in an art gallery. Ann Marie asked for her full name. “June Rose”, she proudly stated. “What a wonderful name”, Ann Marie remarked. “Well, it used to be June Webster, but I married a Rose”, chuckled June.
I awkwardly started singing, “June Is Busting Out All Over”….. from Carousel. June, immediately froze in place and just stared at me with those “deer in the headlights”, look. Feeling her uneasiness ( at this stranger singing her name and me thinking she had no idea what the song was), I feebly attempted to qualify my musical offering by stating that I think the song is from the musical, Carousel or perhaps, Oklahoma, I couldn’t quite recall. One of the two women that came in with the dog came to my aid by saying, “Yes, it’s from Carousel!
As a quick aside, Ann Marie thinks I have a dual personality. At home, I am often quiet, cranky and near impossible to engage in conversation. Conversely, in public I can be ebullient and chatty, while exploring all possible connections between random people.
I recently told Ann Marie that my first girlfriend, many decades ago, described me as, “charming, when I wanted to be.” Which was her way of saying that I was a jerk most of the time. She, of course, was dead on accurate.
But, here’s the best part and the point of this blog. This is how June Rose eventually responded to my ad hoc rendition of June Is Busting Out All Over.
June is a life-long resident of Boothbay and she tells me in dead pan fashion that Carousel was filmed right here in Boothbay Harbor in 1956. She goes on to tell me that 17 year old June Webster, and her friends, would come down to the harbor each day to watch the filming and to swoon over a young star by the name of Gordon MacRae. June’s brother was also chosen to be an extra in the movie. She said that all the kids would play on the set once filming wrapped up for the day.
After my jaw hit the floor and the two women with the dog were drawn into the story, June continued by telling me that in the day all her female friends would have their hair made up to emulate the actress Shirley Jones. June would claim that Frank Sinatra showed up on the first day of filming fully prepared to play the part of Billy Bigelow. However, Sinatra immediately quit because Boothbay was a dry town in 1956. “That wouldn’t work for Frank”, the dog lady chimed in. The unconfirmed rumor at the time was that Eva Gardner, to whom Sinatra was married, told him to quit the film and get his butt to Africa where she was filming. Otherwise, Gardner threatened to have an affair with her costar, Clark Cable. I think June’s account seems more plausible.
I find myself deeply moved by this entire exchange. What a wonderful shared story that was sparked by an awkward singing of a broadway song. What a stroke of great fortune, but such encounters are truly expected in Maine.
But wait, the story’s not over! June went on to tell us that she had the wonderful fortune of working for a local florist in 1956. As such, she was chosen to deliver a bouquet of flowers to the house where Gordan MacRae was staying. With Bubbling teenage excitement, June knocked on the door anticipating the presence of gorgeous Gordan, only to be disappointedly met by the maid. As she handed the arrangement to the maid June was even more disappointed to hear Mr. and Mrs. MacRae arguing loudly in the background. Alas, her romantic visions of perfect Hollywood couples were quickly and rudely dashed.
Everyone has a story and June Rose had an incredibly wonderful one. Photographer Michael Hagenbuch told me his story through a hauntingly beautiful photograph. And even the two ladies with the dog joined this story and probably have some pretty good stories of their own. I hope you take the time to enjoy life like my friends in Maine and I hope you take the time to seek out people’s stories. I know you, too, have some good stories to share, I just know it.
Home To Home
After 31 years of teaching, I have decided to retire and start a new chapter of my life as a photographer. It has been my passion for about 7 years now.