From Six Feet Away
You Can't Lockdown Spirit
During a pandemic that has crippled the Maine economy and forced people, at times, into near isolation, photographer Dave Dostie travelled about Central Maine to capture images of people still living their lives and helping the community and each other. Still surviving.
All From Six Feet Away.
Craig and Jop
Craig Hickman and Jop Blom met in Boston in the late 1980s while Hickman was a junior at Harvard University. The two began dating in 1997, were engaged on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and were married surrounded by their parents and one hundred friends in Boston.
After moving to Maine in 2002, Hickman became an organic farmer. A decade later he decided to run for political office and in 2012 became the first openly gay African American ever elected to the Maine House of Representatives. Now, eight years later, he stands as longest serving and highest ranking person of color in Maine politics. He also chairs the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
Meanwhile, Blom has worked as a physical therapist for nearly four decades. He started his career in the Congo, caring for children with polio and club feet for three years before moving to Boston. While practicing in Boston, he earned a Masters Degree in Public Health from Boston University and a PhD in Health Policy from Brandeis University. Blom now works at MaineGeneral’s Winthrop Clinic.
Hickman and Blom co-own Annabessacook Farm in Winthrop and have been running the farm since 2002, growing organic vegetables and raising chickens, goats and pigs.
The couple feel that taking care of their blessings has guided them through many difficult periods in their lives, including the current pandemic. From six feet away, I had the honor to photograph Craig and Jop enjoying their two-week-old baby goats.
Heather Pouliot returned to Augusta from New York City about eight years ago. In Maine, she wanted to explore ways of doing what she loves—being creative—while helping people grow their businesses, in part to make Augusta a more fun place to live. It was an important mission for Pouliot because she wanted to give back to a community that made her childhood a great and positive one.
Heather represents her community as an Augusta City Councilor and owns a marketing and graphic design company called Core Marketing & Design. She is also board president of the Augusta Downtown Alliance.
In this time of uncertainty, many people have a lot of fear of the unknown. Pouliot believes it’s important to bring positivity and try to balance that fear—whether it's trying to help businesses stay open doing what they do or helping my clients pivot their marketing strategy and do business differently.
Back in 2008, another time when the economy experienced challenges, she gained experience that helps drive her attitude and approach today. While many are fearful, she see changing times as an opportunity for people and businesses to recreate themselves, sharpen their brand, and reinvent how they conduct business. She hopes people will embrace change rather than view everything in a negative light.
We all say things like “Oh, I would do that if only I had time…” or “When things slow down, I’ll learn how to do this.” Well, now is that time, said says. A sort of “dancing in the rain” attitude helps us get through anything.
Christi Holmes, born and raised in Machias, lives on a small lake in Southern Maine with her partner, Travis. She works as a civil engineer, but is also a Registered Maine Guide.
Despite the pandemic, Christi says her life has not changed dramatically. She is still working, although now from home, and has plenty of fish and wild game in the freezer to eat. In addition, she has planned out her garden, scoured the woods looking for deer antlers, hung a box for wood ducks, dug clams, and gone fishing. As always, she listens to the wood frogs singing and watched the fiddleheads grow during the spring.
"I am certainly nervous," she says, "and uncertain about the future, but there’s nothing I can do but accept it and make the best of it. I can only control my own mindset, and I choose hope over fear."
Christi has been such a positive influence in this state as she continues to highlight the outdoors and the abundance of opportunity that surrounds us here in Maine each and every day.
While many of us struggle to see any light at the end of the tunnel, she provides optimism that a light exists. That if we keep paddling our metaphorical boat, eventually we will escape the tunnel and make it to a common destination on the other side of the pandemic.
But along the way, make sure you stop to listen to the sounds, breathe the fresh air, catch a fish or two, and make the best of this voyage that we are all on together.
Shortly before Easter Sunday, Pastor Justin Frank of Penney Memorial United Baptist Church let me know about an effort by local churches to join together and ring their bells in celebration of that Holy Day. It struck me as not only a powerful message to our community, but also served to disprove an earlier social media post I wrote bemoaning the prospects that "the bells won't ring" on Easter.
After receiving his note, I visited him at his church. Upon arriving, I was welcomed with a warm and friendly greeting by a kind man dedicated to his parish. Justin was called to serve nearly six years ago and he’s worked with his team and church members to create a beautiful collaboration of faith. Even with more than two hundred members, he and his staff is reaching out to each and every one to make sure they are all safe and doing well.
Justin and I spoke about the challenges for members and how tough it is for everyone that they cannot come to an in-person service. In attempt to provide community, he’s been leading an effort to video services and make them available to people remotely so they can remain connected.
On Easter Sunday, for the first time in its history, the church doors were locked, and prayer had to take place at home. Although, physically distant the faithful did remain connected through spirit. And at ten in the morning, the sound of church bells echoed in the city and throughout the Kennebec Valley. The sound of those bells were a symbol and a sign of hope.
Third generation lobsterwoman Krista Tripp grew up on Spruce Head smelling the salty breeze off the Atlantic. Her grandfather John Tripp was the first family fisherman, who, at twenty-four years old, started lobstering in 1956. He fished the coast of Maine up until his last breath on April 30, 2016. Krista had the honor to stern for her grandfather before he passed away at the age of 84. Krista's father James Tripp started fishing out of a small skiff at the young age of eight. She followed in his footsteps when she, also at the age of eight, started hauling with her father.
Being on the water is in the Tripp Family's blood, the ocean is a second home and a place where they find comfort while earning a living. For Krista, pursuing a career in fishing wasn't easy because some of her family didn't necessarily support a woman working in the industry. However, over the years she has remained dedicated to her work and has overcome such obstacles.
She is the captain of her own boat, a 36-footer called Shearwater that was previously owned by her grandfather. It was named for a shorebird her grandfather was fond of. Krista fishes seven hundred traps and on a normal day hauls about 270 of them.
Krista also owns and operates Aphrodite Oysters, an oyster farm on the Weskeag River in South Thomaston. She's passionate about oyster farming in part because oysters filter the ocean water and create a healthier environmental that allows other species to thrive. Oysters give back to their environment, are healthy to eat, and the industry is sustainable.
I didn't know Krista prior to capturing this portrait, but from the moment we met, her mission and drive was clear. This portrait was captured in the doorway of the bait house on the docks of Spruce Head. Given the impacts of COVID-19, Krista's been selling lobsters and oysters at low prices to the community to help supply food during this time of need.
George Marston has continued working through the COVID-19 pandemic, helping provide an essential service to people across the state—electricity.
Marston was born and raised in Augusta. After graduating from Cony High School, Marston enlisted in the US Marine Corps. As a Marine, he fought on the front line during Operation Desert Storm, earning a Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Stars, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon ,and a Good Conduct Medal.
Today, he is on a different front line closer to him, working as a lineman for Central Maine Power. The new protocols implemented because of the pandemic have changed his daily routine. In previous years, George drove to the shop each morning to get his truck and get work papers from his supervisor. Now he drives his bucket truck home after completing his shift and each morning, downloads work orders from a computer installed in his bucket truck. With orders in hand, he heads directly to the job site.
Despite being faced with adversity and challenges of operating during a pandemic, many people like George continue to work everyday helping us live our lives as normally as possible; and for that and for them, I am incredibly grateful.
When she was six years old, Regan Thibodeau found a yellow and blue buoy that had washed ashore on Ferry Beach. She adored the buoy and played with it for hours, but in a moment of distraction someone else picked up that buoy and walked away with it. When her family made her aware of what had happened, Regan raced after that buoy, yelling "mine." In a moment or two, the buoy was back in her hands and Regan said she immediately learned the power of going after something when it's fair and just. It was in that moment that Regan realized her potential was limitless.
Regan Thibodeau, 41, was born deaf, and is one of the most amazing people I've ever met; she has overcome hurdles and provides inspiration to all. Regan is the first deaf person in Maine's history to earn a PhD. Because of her passion to continue growing and learning and a mission to teach, Regan has traveled the world studying sign language and interacting with deaf people influential to the language. Regan's rare skillset has been a blessing to many people everyday, especially during the current pandemic as she interprets many of the daily CDC briefings using sign language. Regan can easily interpreted words by reading my lips, and can respond in a beautiful speaking voice.
At her graduation, Regan graced her fellow students, faculty, staff, family, and friends with a commencement speech. The beginning of her speech harkened back to her childhood days at the kitchen table: "There was a kitchen table in my early years. On the yellow wallpaper there were those fuzzy little brown shapes. A perfect 1950’s house. At the end of this table was my grandfather and we would talk over a bowl of his famous rice soup. I looked forward to seeing what my grandfather would share at that table every weekend. To a little me, his ideas about the world, even the endless universe, were mind blowing and I absorbed it all. Why stop at asking if the glass is empty or full? Why not be grateful that we even have a single drop in that glass and express gratitude that we even have a glass!"
In her speech, Regan shares details of her life, her hurdles, her efforts, her contributions, and her accomplishments, before circling back to that kitchen table: "We must find ways to break the illusion of limits. Because we each are limitless."
Regan lives in Southern Maine with her two children Averi and Sawyre and her husband Jami. Her children are the light of life bringing Regan joy day-in, day-out through laughter and amusement. She and her husband share tons of time together.
I've been lucky to meet some really wonderful people in this world, each impacting me in a unique and special way. And Regan's a person who, in a short time, really opened my eyes to our ability to adapt to and overcome life's challenges through passion, commitment, and dedication.
Since 1772, the Bragg Family, now ten generations deep, have called Sidney home. As you drive the winding Route 105 between Augusta and Waterville, you’ll find an old red barn with “Bragg Homestead Est. 1773” written on the side. This location marks the original homestead of the Braggs—a farming family devoted to the industry and the hard work associated with it.
I met Jeff Bragg and his son Jacob Bragg at Rainbow Valley Organic Dairy Farm, a location the family has owned since 1968—or for three generations. The family, along with several full-time employees, keep things operational. The Bragg Family has over six hundred acres with five hundred of them dedicated to farming. They have more four hundred cows with more than 150 of them milking.
The dairy industry in Maine has seen drastic change over the last several years and the impacts of COVID-19 have really turn it upside down. While the organic farms haven't been impacted to the degree of others, they still face significant challenges. Jeff and Jacob have continued to work seven days a week to maintain operations, take care of their cows, and to continue a family tradition that’s been going on for nearly 250 years.
When I visited, I got a short our of the farm from a safe distance while also seizing the opportunity to capture a portrait of this father and son. My hope is that every industry that’s hit by the pandemic will rebound and survive. The farming and dairy industry is one that’s vital to the people of Maine. I wish the Bragg Family all the best!
"From Six Feet Away" was born as a result of COVID-19's impact on Dave's photography business. With nearly forty events on the schedule between mid-March and the end of June, Dave saw every one canceled, almost overnight, as the pandemic worked its way into Maine. With his career in state government continuing, Dave desperately needed a way to satisfy his creative needs so he decided to start capturing portraits—from at least six feet away—of people who were remaining positive and resilient during a challenging time. With each portrait, Dave worked to learn a bit about each person to enhance the story. For Dave, this has been a way to share a positive message even while so many people are feeling negative impacts rom the crisis. With images of more than 120 wonderful people already captured and a few left to shoot, Dave hopes he can bring it all together in some type of book. One of the many takeaways for Dave from the project is that regardless of who the person is, everyone has a story to tell.
Dave Dostie lives in Augusta where he balances full-time careers in government finance and photography. When Dave’s not in the office balancing budgets, he focuses on editorial photography with a specialized interest in documentary and lifestyle work using a photojournalism approach. His passion for telling stories through photographs is what he finds most rewarding. His main objective when photographing is to celebrate positivity whether it be through documenting inspiring people, beautiful landscapes, or unique events. When Dave’s not working, he spends much of his time with his wife Stacey keeping active together; they are both avid runners, love the gym, and take long-distance backpacking trips annually.