It’s easy to think of Maine as an isolated corner of the globe, where time slows down and national trends often stop south of the Piscataqua River. Yet those who’ve lived here for any length of time realize Mainers themselves tend to be a sophisticated and well-traveled bunch whose worldviews are in no way limited by the borders of the state.

This aspect of the Maine character can be seen in a show currently on view at Addison Woolley Gallery in Portland. Called “Maine Photographers: Eyes on Asia,” the show attracted a full house when it held its opening reception Thursday night. It remains up through Jan. 29, when a discussion with the artists takes place at 3 p.m.

Guest curated by the venerable Bruce Brown (who retired a few years ago as the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s longtime curator), the show features work from Brendan Bullock, Corliss Chastain, Jon Edwards, Barbara Goodbody, James Marshall, Matthew Smollinsky, Praire Stuart-Wolff and Brown, who all live in Maine. The diverse body of photographic work collected in the show ranges from action shots and human interest photos to still lifes and portraits. China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam are all represented in the exhibition.

“I didn’t curate anything last year and it drove me crazy,” Brown told me. “So it’s great to have this show.”

Brown came up with the idea when he was organizing an invitational photography exhibition at the CMCA in 2010.

“It dawned on me as I was meeting with people and looking at the work how much was done out of the state,” Brown explained to me.

Then a year ago, Brown traveled to Vietnam — where his photos in the show were shot — and once he returned he quickly realized that many other Maine photographers had done work in Asia.

Brown will also guest curate photography shows at Addison Woolley Gallery in February and March.

“What I’m trying to do with these shows is to bring together a number of Maine photographers whose work is not often seen in Portland,” Brown said.

The Addison Woolley Gallery, which specializes in photography, is located in Portland’s East End, well outside of the city’s heavily traveled Arts District.

“People come here as a destination,” gallery owner Susan Porter told me. “So when they come here they’re drawn by the work and want to be here.”

The same could be said for Maine.

Marshall, who has photographed extensively for publications such as Travel and Leisure, Newsweek and Forbes, told me he first came to Maine in 1997 on assignment for a story about Route 1 and immediately fell in love with the state. Soon afterwards, he decided to move here.

“I love to travel and make photos in Asia because I think of it as a culturally refractive shift,” Marshall said. “What you think of as red doesn’t meant the same thing to someone in Asia. There’s this cultural shift you have to adapt yourself to.”

Even Mainers who prefer not to travel often find themselves on the other side of the world.

Such was the case for Edwards, who owns the building where the gallery is located and maintains studio space and a darkroom downstairs.

“I try not to travel south of Kittery,” Edwards told me. “But this opportunity came along and even I couldn’t say no.”

The opportunity was an invitation from the Chinese government to participate in the Yun Tai Shun International Photography Forum. It was during this trip that he shot the panoramic works he shows in this exhibition.

“I love the range of photographs,” Maine College of Art President Don Tuski told me. “My background being in anthropology, I love the range of cultures” depicted in the work.

“Overall I’m appreciative of seeing the children in the photographs because they really speak to the culture more so than the adults,” said Liz Moss, who owns the Elizabeth Moss Gallery in Falmouth and is a founder of the Maine Museum of Photographic Arts. “It’s refreshing to see Asian subject matter in Maine in January.” 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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