The photography of Midcoast’s Isaac Remsen

One shot is all it takes

Wed, 11/25/2020 - 7:30pm

    ROCKPORT—On a cold, wintry day in 2018, Isaac Remsen was driving to work when glancing across the Rockport Harbor, he was compelled to slow down.

    “I noticed the inner part of the harbor was completely frozen and there were about five lobster boats stuck in the ice,” he said. “I literally called my boss right then and there and said, ‘I’m going to be a little late; I need to take a shot of this.”

    He took his DJI Phantom 4 drone out of the back of his car and sent it flying. The shot it produced is an aerial view looking down at the frozen boats in what looks almost like a topographical map.

    “I felt like I was capturing a once in a lifetime moment brought together by environmental circumstances,” he said.

    This shot just put Remsen as a finalist in Down East’s annual photo contest. The winner will be announced on December 14.

    Remsen, who was born and raised in West Rockport, first got an interest in photography when he was a kid with a disposable camera.

    “It wasn’t until I took an Outward Bound course to Costa Rica when I was 23 that I completely opened my mind to photography,” he said.

    His parents saw the quality in the photos Remsen was sending back from Costa Rica and made some inquiries about getting him into a special Maine Media Workshops course abroad.

    “As soon as I returned home, my parents were supportive of this new-found passion and asked me: ‘What do you think about going to Paris?”

    Remsen replied, “I’ve not even been home 24 hours yet!”

    But, a month later, off to Paris he went to study international street photography with world-renowned photographer Peter Turnley, an associate of the Maine Media Workshops. From there, he continued his travels to Amsterdam, London, and Scotland, and Buenos Aires, taking as many photos as he could.

    “While taking these workshops, my techniques improved,” said Remsen. “I learned to better operate a camera from a technical standpoint. Peter pushed me to experiment and go out into Paris alone, where I’d never been in my life. He kept telling me to look for the story, get closer to the subject, and capture something that’s honest. I came away with about 14,000 images from that trip.”

    Back home in Maine after that, Remsen tried to figure out how to take his interests to the next level. Like many young people who grow up here, he thought he’d seen enough of Maine by the time he was in his 20s and headed for more exciting adventures in Boston. He then ended up attending and graduating from the New England School of Photography. An aficionado of music and concerts, he got himself immersed in the concert scene, photographing events, people, and musicians that also got his work into The Boston Globe and other publications. He became the staff photographer for Leedz Edutainment, an independent promotion company primarily for hip hop.

    But, Maine always calls back its creatives. After a decade, Remsen wanted to move back to Midcoast. He worked for architectural photographer Brian Vanden Brink for a number of years, but after his daughter, Isla, was born, he transitioned into a new role. For the past three years, he has cared for Isla, while using the time to refine his body of work.

    “Now that I’ve returned home, I realized I took a lot of this area for granted,” he said.  “I’m seeing Maine from a fresh perspective and starting to explore it more. I go out every day and try to find an interesting perspective on something whether it be a blizzard or coastal flooding; I just try to create some art in some way.”

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