The hypnotic gaze of the red fox in the Best of Show photograph will stay with you long after you stop looking at it … Its windblown chest hair says it is a frosty day and the falling snowflakes play tricks with your eyes … were they more in focus when you first saw them, before those eyes of “Winter Fox” put you under a spell? Only photographer Mike Cullivan of Scarborough knows for sure …
It was an unusual year for the 2020 Maine Photography Show: Due to the coronavirus, visits to galleries had become web-only experiences. And that’s exactly how MPS award recipients were notified, on the MPS website at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 4.
Of the 800 entries, 105 were selected for the show; however, seven photographers opted not to drop off their framed, matted photos due to virus concerns. MPS chair Bruce Burnham said a small crew hung the show March 30.
“We really hope we get to show it,” Burnham said. “MPS has the space through June 5. If it’s possible, we’d like to open it May 1 even if it means having no more than six people in at a time – like we did during drop off.”
Greg Rec, chief photographer for the Portland Press Herald, was the juror of the 15th Maine Photography Show. This man with an eye was twice embedded with Maine Army National Guard troops in Iraq, In 2004, Rec was named Journalist of the Year with columnist Bill Nemitz by the Maine Press Association for their work in Iraq. After only 10 years at the Press Herald, he won the Master Photographer award from the New England Society of Newspaper Editors, an award usually reserved for veteran photographers. For more on Rec, visit https://www.gregrec.com
“For me, a Best in Show image is the photo in a contest that you keep returning to because you want to see it again and again, even when you might be in the middle of judging another category,” shared juror Rec. “Winter Fox is that image for me. I kept calling it up in the web browser to stare at it for awhile. It completely captivated me – the blurred snow, the eyes locked on the photographer and camera, the texture in the fur. This image is absolutely stunning.”
See the color photograph of the gorgeous red fox, and other Mike Cullivan images at www.flickr.com/photos/mikecullivan/
Check out what Rec had to say about the first place images … let’s start with the powerful image of the firefighter - taken by Topsham-based photographer Nancy Greindl - who is “Overcome” by the smoke of a nearby fire. Has he been trying to push it back for hours, or is the structure, or forest burning so large, so vast, he has to move away from it.
Said Rec: “Wow, just wow. Great moment and so well composed. Fabulous work by the photographer.”
This year’s first place in the Color category went to Stephen Fabricius for “Dead Vlei.” Rec says of all the excellent images in this category it was this photo that caught his eye from the start. “The composition and light in this image are so flawless and the diminishing repeating pattern of the dead trees adds to the perfection of this photo.”
MPS fans may remember Fabricius’ magical Italian image “TreCime,” was best in show last year.
The first place Student award went to Sarah Delaware for “In the Moment.” Rec says, “The shallow depth of field brings me right in and makes me question what the subject is looking at and wondering about, which provides a strong connection between viewer and subject. That is not an easy connection for a photographer to make. Excellent image.”
Receiving first place in the B&W category was the photograph of a woman walking her dog in the mist. Is she a ghostly presence captured by accident from another century? “This image is so timeless, it could be a tintype from the late 1800s. I love the composition and overall, it is extremely well executed. Bravo!” Rec says of “The Dog Walker.”
Each year, the MPS committee selects a photo, not chosen for a juror’s award, for the cover of the show catalog. This year, that image is “Garlic” by Jane Davis for “its simplicity and very pleasing design.”
Now back to that Best In Show photo ... Mike Cullivan and his wife Linda, also a wildlife photographer, were out on one of their annual winter visits to Yellowstone National Park in 2018 when they came upon the red fox in the Hayden Valley. “We went out to the valley on a snow cat and saw this fox on a hillside cruising around looking for voles, I guess, in this snowstorm. He sat there staring at us with the snow blowing around him for quite awhile. When we came back home and were looking through the photos we’d taken, I thought because of the light that day it had a bit of a blue tone to it so the image would make a good B&W; give it an unconventional look.”
He was sure right about that!
Mike and Linda were in front of a shared computer screen the afternoon of April 4 to check out the winning images. “We were looking through all of the winning images and know some of the photographers who won, and I thought that’s great. I walked away and Linda said, ‘Oh, there’s one more ... It was a big surprise to be Best In Show. I am so humbled and honored because of all the great photographers in the show.”
During this time of social distancing and self-quarantining, this wildlife photography couple (Mike took it up after retiring in 2004 and Linda a few years later) spend a lot of time shooting images of wildlife in their backyard that just happens to be on the edge of the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge. See more Cullivan images at www.spurwinkriverphoto.com
Cash prizes totaling $1,800, including $500 for Best In Show, were made possible thanks to Lead Sponsors: First National Wealth Management (lead sponsor), Boothbay Region Greenhouses, Boothbay Harbor Framers, Art & Antiques, Capitol Area Camera Club: Show Award Sponsors: First Light Camera Club, Portland Camera Club, Robinson’s Wharf, Mine Oyster and Hawke Motors; and MPS Catalog Sponsor: Boothbay Boat Sales.
Burnham announced next year’s juror will be gallery curator and collector Bruce Brown, recognized as one of the top 100 collectors of art in the U.S. He has collections at the Portland Museum of Art featuring works Brown gives PMA annually.
“I expect we will get closer to 1,000 entries next year simply because Bruce will be juror,” added Burnham.
“This is a great show (2020) and the special documentary category worked very well,” Burnham said. “Let’s hope people can go to the (Boothbay Region) Art Foundation to see it.”
If not, there’s always https://mainephotoshow.org. Anyone interested in buying a copy of this year’s show catalog can call BRAF at 633-2703 after high noon to order with credit or debit cards; checks are OK, too: Mail to BRAF, P.O. Box 124, Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538. Catalogs are $25 plus $5 shipping.
What fuels the passion in a person to become a photographer? Perhaps American photographer and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) said it best: “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”