In 1982, with a camera but no car and little money, Steven Rubin hitchhiked around Maine, heading inland from the coast and finding his way to this remote region where the photographs in this exhibit were taken, living for a time in an abandoned cabin without electricity, heat, or running water. When the winter proved too cold, he accepted a bare mattress in the corner of a family's mobile home. He eventually became a fixture in the community and they embraced him, at least for a time. Over the years he returned for numerous visits.
Maine’s Route One winds its way along a coastline graced by scenic vistas, picturesque fishing villages anchored by lobster shacks, seaside resorts and the vacation homes of millionaires. This is the Maine featured in tourist brochures and embedded in our collective vision of the state. But there exists another Maine, a land of perennial poverty just beyond the interstate. It is home to the people portrayed here. Long term residents of the backwoods, they live in scattered dwellings whose distance from the coast is measured in more than miles. Here they remain exiled from the American Dream and from the description on the state license plates which reads Vacationland.
This body of work is an homage to the strength of these families who must struggle on a daily basis to keep body and soul together. The photographs are offered with gratitude and admiration to those who generously opened their doors and shared their lives with a flatlander. These black and white images record periods in the 1980s and 90s, with briefer visits extending into the 2000s. The photographs depict life lived in a particular time and place, authentic and uncalculated.
Currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Penn State University, Steven Rubin worked for more than twenty years as a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer. His photographs have been published domestictically in The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek and The Village Voice, and internationally in Stern, GEO, Focus, L’Express and The London Independent Magazine. His work has been exhibited across the United States. He is the recipient of the Leica Medal of Excellence, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard and an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship. A graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, he obtained his MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego.