“Who was it said that you never get to a place until a day after you come, nor leave it until a day after you go?” —Sarah Orne Jewett
Since early 2014, photographer S.B. Walker has traveled more than 100,000 miles throughout Maine in an attempt to render a truly nuanced visual record of contemporary American life. On the face of it, a project such as this appears to be a rational, census-like undertaking akin to the vast photographic surveys conducted in the 19th and 20th centuries. In reality though, it is a windy road dictated by intuition, serendipity, and strange happenings.
Walker says, “Over the course of the project I’ve had the privilege to spend time with 10th generation Mainers, aging back-to-the-landers, young farmers, recent immigrants, artists, ex-convicts, entrepreneurs, drag queens, affluent summer folk, fishermen, crypto-currency traders, and so on. Despite the richness of these encounters, I am left with more questions than answers. To define a time and place is in some sense an impossible task—though for the artist, trying to articulate what cannot be described is perhaps the best kind of sport. I do my best to keep this in mind when the vagueness of my mission weighs heavy on my thoughts.”
Walker’s Nor’east is one artist’s attempt to craft an epic poem about Maine. The story is laid out in a series of unsentimental photographic vignettes, revealing the state’s identity in the context of globalism, with all its glories and contradictions.
S.B. (Sam) Walker, b. 1987, lives and works in Portland, Maine. His works have been exhibited internationally and can be found in public and private collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Fitchburg Art Museum; Smith College Museum of Art; David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University; Houston Museum of Fine Arts; Peabody Essex Museum; The Thoreau Institute; and Paul Sack Photographic Trust.
His projects have been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Smithsonian Magazine, Photo District News, Lens Culture, Hyperallergic, and Aperture, among other publications.
In 2017, Walker released his first published monograph Walden, which features an afterword by Yale scholar Alan Trachtenberg. Works from his series examining the Polaroid Corporation are featured in the international traveling museum exhibition, The Polaroid Project, Art and Technology. Janet Borden Inc., New York, NY, currently represents his work.
S.B. Walker | Nor’east is funded in part by a Bicentennial Project Grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.
A Gazetteer and a Subaru fueled this photographer’s two-year journey across Maine by Lauren Abbate, Bangor Daily News, December 15, 2019