By: Max Lorber, Arts and Culture Editor
The Maine Museum of Photographic Arts (MMPA) celebrated its 10th anniversary with a uniquely expansive and impressively formidable exhibition. Instead of procuring a selection of pieces from a few photographers or collectors, MMPA board members decided to contact one hundred different collectors in Maine, requesting one print from each.
The result is an epic collage of various photographic styles and print types, hanging on the 5th floor of Glickman Library until May 16. Walking through the exhibit is like being immersed in a visual buffet, with a seemingly unlimited choice of flavors and experiences compartmentalized within each frame.
“The quality and variety of this exhibition is quite exceptional,” said Denise Froehlich, Founder, and Director of the MMPA. “Where else could you go in the state of Maine and see this exhibition?”
The juxtapositions of images throughout the exhibit are pleasantly jarring, with each print staking its own claim within the viewer’s field of vision. A small portrait of a puppy with a black backdrop sits underneath a sepia-toned photograph of twin sisters, hugging each other with distinct, forlorn expressions on their faces.
Left of these contrasted images are two humorous prints depicting absurd manifestations of masculinity. Young guys in a car with goonish expressions, hauling away a case of Schlitz beer, gives way to a shot of two men on an empty dance floor, one swinging from a pole, with a cardboard cutout of a woman in a bikini lurking to the left side of the frame.
Across the hallway hangs a print of an old man lying in front of a gravestone, sketching or writing in a notebook. Around the corner, tucked away like a special secret, a Vivian Maier self-portrait; half the frame depicting two women intently window shopping, with a blurry reflection of the photographer standing off to the side.
Aside from portraits and street photography, there are landscape and architectural photographs, as well as abstract prints, like a collage by Robert Deweese of a hand-drawn figure, spray-painted shapes and photocopied prints. The display case on the edge of the exhibit has two pieces with handwriting framing the image. Lying to the right, a skateboard printed with a black and white photograph of a young man holding a revolver
Cate Wnek, the newest member of the MMPA advisory board, said she was particularly excited about the self-portrait by Maier, a well-known street photographer whose work received worldwide recognition only after her death in 2009. Wnek also proudly pointed out a giclèe print by Sally Mann, a controversial photographer who famously captured stark, honest images of families and children in America, including her own.
Denise Froehlich, the Founder, and Director of the MMPA, said the idea to bring together a variety of Maine photography collectors for one show has been four years in the making. In a speech she gave during the exhibition opening, she pointed to the framed prints on the wall and said that obtaining each piece took an incredible amount of time and effort from herself and the MMPA board.
During her speech, while addressing the collectors in the crowd, Froehlich said, “I called and I asked everyone ‘can I please borrow something from your collection’, and you all loaned me the best thing you had. We are just blown away.”
After giving thanks to the collectors and introducing the MMPA board, Froehlich announced the organization’s rollout of a membership program. According to the MMPA website, for a yearly fee, the advisory board would offer portfolio reviews for photographers who are interested in honing their craft.
Wnek mentioned that this new membership program is one of several ways the MMPA is hoping to raise funds for future shows. According to Wnek and Froehlich, the advisory board is planning to triple its budget this year.
“We are fundraising to add two more exhibitions for a total of five per year,” Froehlich said about the future of MMPA.