Documentary Photo Essays

Art icon imageArt from Adversity

To look at ceramic artist Meryl Ruth’s current work, you may assume that she has been blessed with a life of ease and bountiful happiness. In fact, her award‐winning, highly whimsical series of teapots is inspired by her sister, who recently died of breast cancer. The 57‐year‐old artist explains, “In my family, we use humor in the face of adversity.”  (June – October 2010)

ACO icon imageA Special Breed of Crazy

Animal Control Officer Garth Russell is far from the dogcatcher stereotype frequently portrayed in cartoons and movies. Garth is fast moving, focused, and fearless. In addition to hands-on contact with animals that may be frightened or injured, the job also requires frequent contact with a broad spectrum of people, many who are less than happy to see him. To be effective as an Animal Control Officer (ACO), Garth must balance his obvious concern for animals with methodical record keeping and deliberate professional detachment. According to Garth, “It takes a special breed of crazy to do this job.”  (November 2009 – July 2010)

SHospice icon imagetill Listening

Fleurette Bannon is full of life and comfortable with death. A volunteer for Hospice of Southern Maine for 9 years, she has been matched with 20 patients during that time. Fleurette approaches each volunteer assignment with an open mind and the belief that “there is always a lesson.” Since no two cases have been the same, she knows that a hospice volunteer must be willing to do whatever is needed in the situation, from praying to washing dishes.  (June – September 2009)

K9 icon imageFor Baron, It’s All a Big Game

Officer Kevin Webster of the South Portland Police Department says that he spends more time with his K-9 partner Baron than he does with his wife and kids. Together 24/7, Kevin and Baron know each other so well that much of their communication – a look, body language, or tone of voice (bark) – is subtle and easy to miss. Retired military and a police officer for 20 years, Kevin believes that on numerous occasions Baron’s mere presence has resulted in suspects handing over drugs/weapons or surrendering without a fight. However, a K-9 unit represents a major liability risk for the police department should the dog attack the wrong person. Thus, constant training is a way of life for Kevin and Baron. As a State Certified K-9 Trainer, Kevin has been bitten dozens of times. He shrugs off the bites as just part of the job.  (March – May 2009, Courtesy of Salt Institute for Documentary Studies)