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April 4, 2010

THAT '70S SHOW

A new photography exhibition offers a look back at a very different Portland

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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“Seeing Portland” focuses on the work of photographers from the 1970s and early ’80s, including “Splendid Restaurant, Congress Street, Portland, 8/20/76” by Todd Webb. The show opens Saturday at Zero Station in Portland.

Courtesy photo

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"Munjoy South Girls" by Andy Graham, 1975

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below

On the web

IF YOU GO

"SEEING PORTLAND – 1970 TO 1984," a group photography exhibition featuring the work of Tom Brennan, C.C. Church, Andy Graham, Rose Marasco, Joe Muir, Mark Rockwood, Jeff Stevensen, Jay York and Todd Webb

WHERE: Zero Station, 222 Anderson St., Portland

WHEN: Opens with a reception 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday and continues through May 1

REGULAR HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

INFORMATION: 347-7000; www.zerostation.com

PORTLAND — Andy Graham grabbed a camera and headed over to Kennedy Park to shoot a few pictures.

The year was 1975, and Graham was a 23-year-old student at what was then the University of Maine Portland-Gorham. Camera in hand, he attracted the children around Kennedy Park and the lower end of Munjoy Hill like a magnet.

Graham, the founder of Portland Color, looked anew at those images recently, and was taken by what he saw.

"I discovered a sweetness in the people I had not anticipated seeing. There was this humanness I hadn't remembered," he says.

Graham's photographs revealed a specific time and place that somehow felt vastly different from the Portland that we know today. The urban renewal projects of the 1960s had stripped the city of much of its glorious past, and the gentrification of the Old Port had not yet begun.

Portland in the '70s was still sleeping. It was caught in between its heralded history and a promising future. In the age of Watergate, disco and bellbottoms, the city was being reborn and redefined, and its personality as a hip and trendy city by the sea had not yet taken hold.

Graham wondered, "Who else was shooting photos back then, and what do their images look like?"

The answer to that question forms the basis of a new exhibition, "Seeing Portland – 1970 to 1984," which opens this week and remains on view through May 1 at Zero Station, 222 Anderson St., Portland.

The exhibition feels like a family photo album. We laugh at the fashions, revel in the memories and remark at how much has changed.

The exhibition brings together the work of several accomplished photographers. In addition to Graham, photographers with work in the show include Tom Brennan, C.C. Church, Rose Marasco, Joe Muir, Mark Rockwood, Jeff Stevensen, Jay York and Todd Webb. Graham curated the exhibition, along with Anne Riesenberg, his wife; and Keith Fitzgerald, who runs Zero Station.

For Riesenberg, looking at these images unleashes a flood of memories of a city that many of us will hardly recognize, of a time that feels far more distant than it actually is, of innocence and of youth.

'IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH YOU'

For folks who weren't around Portland back then, this exhibition might feel something like the stories your grandfather used to tell about what it was like to be young. "Perhaps you can't quite grasp what they mean, but deep in your bones you know it has something to do with you," Riesenberg writes in her curator's statement.

The photos, she says, document Portland as it was, and opens up our common history like a box of treasures. "Savor them and you savor what has come before, catching a glimpse of the mechanisms of memory as they build up and become the past," she writes.

Graham's original hope for this show was to rely on the photographs of nationally known artists who worked in Portland at that time. He knew that Webb, who died in central Maine in 2000 after an illustrious career, spent considerable time in Portland in the 1970s. His work in this exhibition reveals a city that looks trapped in a time warp. He has images of popular restaurants of the day – Sid's, the Pagoda and Splendid Restaurant – and some fine examples of architectural photographs.

But aside from Webb, Graham came up empty in his search for the nationally famous. So instead, he set his sights on folks who were young at the time, lurking in the city and experimenting with photography.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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"Photo Montage #7" by Rose Marasco, 1981-82.

Courtesy photo

Warehouse, Inc. with Plas, 10/1982
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Jeff Stevensen’s “Warehouse Inc.,” 1982

Courtesy photo

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Joe Muir’s panoramic “Congress Street Side of the Hay Building,” 1978

Courtesy photo

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"Shack" by C.C. Church, 1977

Courtesy photo

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Tom Brennan’s “Lower Congress,” 1978

Courtesy photo

 


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