April 3, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Black-and-white and blueberries

When it comes to Maine's wild blueberries, David Stess is equally adept at picking or shooting them.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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“Winnowing,” circa 1991, gelatin silver print.

Photo courtesy of VoxPhotographs and Portland Museum of Art/© David Brooks Stess

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"Caledonia," circa 2000, gelatin silver print.

Photo courtesy of VoxPhotographs and Portland Museum of Art/© David Brooks Stess

Additional Photos Below

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"I've just watched a generation of young Maine kids who no longer want to do this, where their parents and grandparents used to rake for their school clothes," Stess said. "And now you're seeing that in the native crews too. The younger generation doesn't want to come and do the work. I think when this younger generation of crew leaders is finished, it's going to all go to machine. I think that's just inevitable."

He's also seen the effects of climate change, as the season for harvesting wild blueberries has grown longer and longer. Stess always worked until the first killing frost, "which used to happen sometimes in August, especially in the high barrens." Now, most years, the season stretches late into September.

So many Americans have little feel for where their food actually comes from and how it is produced. Stess feels that by working in the barrens, he's gained some of that knowledge and now has a greater appreciation for where his food originated every time he takes a bite of blueberry pie.

He would like to expand his blueberry exhibition in the future by creating installations at other museums in major cities, places where children think blueberries come from a plastic-wrapped box in the grocery store. Stess said he wants to create a miniature blueberry field outside of the museums so people can see firsthand how the berries are harvested. He'll sell wild Maine berries to museum visitors at a "farmers market." And he'll help kids make their own jars of blueberry jam to take home.

After more than two decades, Stess is thrilled that he actually managed to complete his project and now has a body of work that he's ready to show to the world. He realizes how fortunate he is that he "caught this world as it changed."

"And what's really cool," he said, "is the people I've grown to really care about (in Maine), they really recognize the value of what I've done because they've seen it disappear right before them." 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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Additional Photos

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“Off Hours,” gelatin silver print, circa 1994.

Photo courtesy of VoxPhotographs and Portland Museum of Art/© David Brooks Stess

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"Norman," circa 2002, gelatin silver print.

Photo courtesy of VoxPhotographs and Portland Museum of Art/© David Brooks Stess

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“Raking Close Up, (John Boy),” circa 1999, gelatin silver print.

Photo courtesy of VoxPhotographs and Portland Museum of Art/© David Brooks Stess

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David Stess, whose show of photographs of blueberry rakers on Maine barrens opens Saturday at the Portland Museum of Art.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

  


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