Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Ever been to Disney World? It’s kind of creepy.
Seth Macy’s eye for “Maine from the Inside” includes a pathway through the bramble of Ames Point on North Haven.
Photo by Seth Macy
Very clean. Everything ugly — like machinery, Dumpsters and all the things that make daily life necessary but don’t fall into a happiest place on earth aesthetic — is hidden behind tasteful fences or neatly trimmed bushes.
No one would every confuse downtown Augusta with Disney World, and that’s what Seth Macy likes about it.
Not that downtown Augusta doesn’t have a unique beauty. With an eye-catching mix of Victorian architecture, most notably the turreted granite old post office, and its setting on the banks of the Kennebec River, it’s striking. But you’re never going to see it in the glossy pages of one of those magazines that cater to a certain kind of Maine-lover. The Disney World Maine of artfully stacked lobster pots, shingled cottages and sunsets behind sail boats anchored in a blue-sea harbor.
That, too, is just fine with Macy, who’s looking forward to sighting Augusta through the lens of his camera.
Macy, a lifelong North Haven resident, had never been to Augusta before a visit downtown a couple years ago.
“I was taken aback,” he said this week. He found it interesting — in a good way.
Macy plans a return visit with his camera as part of his “Maine from the Inside” book project.
Macy had been toying with the idea of a photo book that would show the Maine he loves for a long time.
He lives on a Penobscot Bay island probably best known for being the home of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree — whose husband S. Donald Sussman owns this newspaper — and it’s also gotten a lot of recent hype for Nebo Lodge, a fancy-pants restaurant and inn owned by Pingree, her daughter Hannah, and a group of North Haven women. Nebo was written up in “Travel & Leisure,” “Bon Appetite,” among other glossy magazines.
So Macy is at the epicenter of the Disney World Maine mindset.
He has rankled for a long time at the patronizing attitude he finds the well-to-do and those from away have toward Maine’s less ready-for-the-glossy-magazine parts.
About a year ago, Maine Magazine ran a blog post about Lubec that Macy found particularly patronizing. He decided it was time to act.
The 36-year-old photographer has an eye for peeling paint and weeds between the sidewalk cracks, the craggy face and rusting cans. He sells his pictures, but acknowledges “most people want boats and sunsets.”
The glossy magazine boats and sunsets view of Maine was in the news again a couple weeks ago, when “Down East: The Magazine of Maine” was lambasted for photo-shopping a cover photo of a stretch of road to take out the non-pretty parts.
The magazine and others like it promote a Maine fantasy the way the creepy mouse who walks on two legs and wears shorts sells a fairy land to kids.
And like the zillions of parents who take out second mortgages to bring their kids to the Disney World money-making fantasy machine every year, many of the kind of people who read the glossies are happy to be fed a Maine that doesn’t quite exist.
That Maine is not only a physically narrow one, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Interstate 95, but also a perceptually narrow and one-dimensional one, limited by unrealistic expectation.
Many who visit and profess to love the state not only never make it to the inside that Macy plans to document, but are unaware it even exists.
And when they see it, may even find it appalling.
For instance, a letter to the editor of the Kennebec Journal last year from a woman in Sioux Falls, S.D., a fan of the TV show “North Woods Law,” (which definitely focuses on “Inside Maine”) wonders why Mainers allow their property to be so “trashy.”
“Why do you folks not respect the beauty and loveliness of your state?” asked Gayla Stewart. “Clean up your dwellings; your trash and messy areas are showing.”
One person’s messy area is another’s Inside Maine.
“The most interesting parts of Maine aren’t in the brochures or magazines,” Macy says on a webpage devoted to his project. “They’re in the backwoods and old mill towns.
“From the gorgeous shores to the towns located within a short drive from those shores, Maine’s splendor has been well-documented and celebrated,” Macy says. “That splendor is not what I’m interested in.”
The Maine he’s interesting in showing is “The Maine I know, the one I grew up in. The one I saw from the windows of a school bus as we drove to play basketball against another remote Class D school. The brick mills shuttered, the asbestos-shingled apartments. The puddle in front of the only gas station in town, filled with slush, freezing rain pouring down from the halogen-bulb lit sky.”
It’s a big state once you get away from that slice of Atlantic shoreline. Macy understands he’s undertaking a big project. First of all, he lives on an island. It takes about 90 minutes just to get to the mainland.
He’s lucky that he has a flexible job — besides photography, he’s caretaker of a North Haven home. He’s also got a hard-working wife, Brandy Dupper-Macy, who works as a fundraiser for LifeFlight, commuting to Rockland every day while the two raise their sons, ages 9 and 5.
He’s set up a Kickstarter page to help fund the project, as well as a Facebook page.
He’s excited about the possibilities.
And he’s getting lots of advice from people all over the state. “I have friends in Jackman telling me, ‘Hey, you have to come up here during the moose hunt,” he said.
He’s looking forward to finding and showing “places where real Mainers, who don’t fit the cozy narrative, have a good time and survive another winter.”
Downtown Augusta will fit right in, Macy says.
“People just know it’s the capital of Maine, but they don’t know anything about it,” Macy said.
He’s looking forward to showing them.
Maureen Milliken is news editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email her at email@example.com. Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of the month.
click image to enlarge
North Haven’s post office is the kind of “Maine from the Inside” that North Haven photographer Seth Macy hopes to capture.
Photo by Seth Macy