Dispatches: Southern Maine as Seen Through the Lens of a 1960s Polaroid Land Camera

I don’t think it’s quite normal for any young kid to have a travel bucket list. (And if they do, traveling to Maine likely won’t be on it.) Maybe that wasn’t the preferred term at the time, but as a kid I do remember having obsessive travel dreams. Those were inherited and my mother’s tenure as a flight attendant, and only further reinforced my wanderlust.

Every year she’d bring home live Maine lobster from one of her layovers. I was cool with those oversized sea bugs only because the sight of them lit up my brain like a Christmas tree with fantasies of life on the East Coast.

That experience was punctuated by the scenes in my surfing magazines depicting perfect A-Frames pounding the shoreline in a typewriter-like cadence. There was also something alien about the frozen pillow-like landscape in winter, and the fact that people would paddle out in that frigid sea made it seem even more menacing. It seemed like a world away from where I lived on the sun-drenched coast of California.

It took over half my life to pass before I’d visit the great state of Maine (and luckily, by virtue of being connected to its creative community). The locals’ perspective showed that daily options are a slow burn that simmer and eventually roar to a boil with peak experiences.

The waves are world-class and virtually uncrowded in winter, the state is famous for its food scene, and the complete immersion in nature takes a minute to fully digest … It’s that overwhelming.

Earlier this year, I returned for the second time to document the experiences and connections I’d made during the first trip. Only this time, I limited how to tell that story in the most poetic way possible: on black and white instant film through the lens of a 1960s Polaroid land camera.

The inky tendencies in this process give a depth to the people, places and things that inspired me the most and immortalize those memories like a detailed charcoal drawing.

Members of this colorful community also share what drew them there in the first place, as well as why they chose to stay making a convincing argument for why a trip to Maine should also be on everyone’s bucket list.

“Maine is special place to live. The ocean drew me here, but it’s the varied scenery, geography, natural elements, culture and history that keeps me here. I’ve lived in New England for more than 30 years and I’ve called Maine home for 15 of those. I’ve yet to see all there is to see.

Grain was founded in Maine because this is where we lived and I don’t believe we’d be who we are if we didn’t call this place home. This place defines us. We’ve adapted to our surroundings, using local Maine grown sustainable materials to build our boards from.

“Our crew grew up here, and the Grain brand is strong because of our connection to the land and this place. Great surfing just down the road is a pretty great job perk, too.”
Grain Surfboards Founder, Mike Lavecchia

“Maine has always symbolized creativity and resilience for me. The winters can be harsh but the payoff is so special that people find ways to make it work and not just get by, but flourish. From creative home building, to the immense food culture and the ocean, it’s a place that forces you to stay kinetic. Having a highly creative and adventurous crew makes things more fun and we all stay warmer in a tight group.”
– Artist, Ty Williams

“I actually moved to Maine for the ocean. In fact, I grew up near one and missed it. It was afterward that I realized how great the artistic community is around here with everyone opening themselves to questions, spaces, and helping hands in general which has made me be able to feel like an artist with solid ground underneath me. So I guess the people made me realize that ocean isn’t everything but goddamn it’s inspiring too.”
– Artist, Brie Cosman

“Every time I travel and return home, I drive by the beach before pulling into my driveway. After fourteen years of living on the Maine coast, I still get the same feeling in my gut. A feeling of excitement, contentment and warmth. The people we share the coastline and waves with here all seem to be on the same page when it comes to enjoying and respecting the ocean.”
– Photographer, Nick Lavecchia

“From the outside, Maine has a surface beauty that everyone wants. In reality, it has this deep darkness that forces you to go inward – or to the bars. If you focus, you can tuck yourself away and really work on your craft during these months. You enter with the energy of summer, exist in the melancholy of winter and exit with the hope of spring. This fosters an artistic community of people who understand the importance of creating as existing.”
– Ceramicist, Rae Wilson

“Maine, and really the Seacoast, is the kind of place that sets up in your subconscious and takes hold of you. It’s the accent that no one can replicate that’s also slowly dying out. It’s knowing that if someone talks to you it’s because they want to, not because they feel a need to ‘be nice.’ They don’t.

“Things are still a bit wild here. The state exceeds any scale a map might lend. The King’s mast trees are still to be found if you get lucky. The road and power end far before Maine does; there’s a pride in that. Winter is hard and we say we hate it, but summer is a siren song that can lull away a happy lifetime of seasons.

“I’ve lived a few other places and I’ve been lucky to travel the country and quite a bit beyond and this is my place. I could live anywhere, and may, but with mountains, waves, and lakes carved by glaciers all with a short drive it’s easy to love and hard to leave.”
Iron & Air Sales Director, Jon Gaffney

“If you think about it, is there any state in the nation, other than Maine, that the first thing you think of is a delicious meal? Playing the word association game: California: Sun. Colorado: Mountains. Louisiana: Jazz. Maine: LOBSTER! It’s the first thing most people think of when Maine is mentioned.

“Somewhere between the long winters and the short growing season sprouts the ever-eternal heart of a Maine cook. When it’s dark at 4:30 p.m., throw on a pot of slow simmering stew, it will be ready by dinner time.

“Equally as exciting, a long day on the beach ends with a Maine microbrew and a pot of steaming ruby red lobsters just waiting to be dipped in sweet melted butter. Mmmmmmmaine, the way life should be.”
Jennifer Scism, Co-Founder/Chef at Maine’s Good To-Go

All Photos By Dustin Beatty.

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