Just caught up to this column by Ashley Gilbertson in the NYT, all about Tim Whelan pulling the plug on his tiny photo bookstore in Rockport, Me. Dang. Above is a portrait I did of Tim in his shop a number of years ago, with his beloved pooch, Maya. It is one of my favorite pix, understandably, ’cause the combo of the little shop and Tim’s company was irresistible.
It was a rite of passage as an instructor up at Maine Media Workshops. Finish your class, get paid, and go and leave a chunk of the check behind at Tim’s store. A wander (make that more of a shuffle, the place wasn’t very big) through the shelves and the stacks just made you feel good. It made you think, it made you wonder. It always ramped up my sense of curiosity about somebody else’s visual take on the world. You felt hemmed in by paper and ink, and that always felt good. And then there was Tim–easygoing, conversational, knowledgeable.
To say it was like taking a step away from the madding world is a bit redundant, because if you are in Rockport, Me., you’ve already taken that step. It was, however, quiet time, which is always in short supply. Contemplative. Dare I say, kinda like going to church–but much more fun.
I would take my classes there all the time, and, per above, Tim was always a willing and wonderful subject for a lighting demo. Ironically, I put this pic in a new book I just wrote for LIFE, as an example of an environmental portrait, a face in a place.
I can’t feel bad for Tim. He ran a wonderful shop, and I’m sure, has great friends and memories that stem from doing so. From the article, it seems like he is making a sensible move to greener economic pastures.
I just feel bad for the rest of us. Ever walk down the street in a howler of a storm, winds pummeling you like you’re a speed bag, rain flooding your glasses, stinging your skin, ruining your clothes, and just making misery out of everything? (If you’re a freelance photog, you take this walk everyday, even if you don’t know it.) You get inside, close the door, the winds abate, the noise recedes, and you just stand there, thankful for the quiet? (Except of course, for the sound of you, dripping on the carpet.)
That was Tim’s shop, to me. An easy place, apart from the storm. In a way, his photo bookstore was like a good photo. Gave you pause. Made you think. Welcomed you in. Started a conversation, at least in your head. His shelves were filled with reminders of why we do this. I’ll miss it.