Photographer David Wade talks about his art … and himself

I was born in New York, yet many of my childhood summers were spent in Maine, which is where my mother is from, and I became equally at home with large urban and quiet rural lifestyles. I studied at Columbia University.

Around 1969, I picked up a camera, shot a roll of film and began to see life with different eyes. I left New York for Boston to decompress, and eventually apprenticed with a commercial photographer. After three years assisting, I decided to make a go at photography as a career.

Somewhere along the way I picked up the travel bug. In 1984, I moved to Tokyo to study aikido and experience other cultures up close. At first I had some difficulties there with language and cultural protocol but I finally got the hang of it and established myself doing editorial photography, some commercial assignments and exhibiting and teaching photography.

After one of my exhibitions, I was approached by a Japanese publisher and asked to do photos for a book on Louisa May Alcott and then another book on the Von Trapp family, who inspired The Sound of Music. In 1998, I self-published the Von Trapp book for the American market.

I certainly enjoyed combining travel, adventure and photographing and writing articles for airline and destination magazines. This storytelling was fun work but I was based in Tokyo and eventually the city’s size, the crowds and noise pollution became too much. After more than a dozen years, I finally decided I’d better call it quits, so I headed back to my childhood haunts on the coast of Maine.

Much to my surprise, the globe-trotting photojournalist in me found Maine to be very exotic. Just one look at Portland’s working waterfront with its wooden sheds, old salts and fishing gear, and I began furiously documenting Portland’s changing waterfront before it disappeared. That was more than 20 years ago and much has changed. I’m glad I captured some of it for posterity.

The vintage working waterfront photos were in a one-person show last year at the Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth. Today, the pressure to redevelop Portland’s waterfront continues and unless there are measures to preserve and protect it, in another generation Portland’s nautical character may become a thing of the past.

I’ve been working with the fishermen this past year to save it, and I’m also at work on a book of my black-and-white photos of Portland’s working waterfront. I’m also quite busy exhibiting my photographs in galleries and documenting Southern Maine’s vibrant art scene.

I still find Maine a wonderful subject and continue to photograph daily—it’s what keeps me sane—along with important stuff, like beachcombing, swimming in the surf and doing my weekly jazz show on WMPG community radio 1:30–3pm Wednesdays.

Fleeting Moments, 2019, 15 x 20 inches, (unframed) limited edition archival pigment print

About Fleeting Moments (featured on ZEST’s Fall 19 cover)

Often the best photos come by surprise. I had been out walking on the beach and was putting my shoes and socks back on when I looked up and saw this schooner that had suddenly appeared on the horizon. My immediate reaction was to stop what I was doing and run to get my camera. Moments like this are fleeting, here only for a second and then they’re gone.

There was definitely something dreamlike about this ship suspended in the mist, almost magical. With its red sails, it was like an apparition, a vision that had sailed out of another time and place—one of those elusive images that photographers are forever in search of, like the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece.

Given my fascination with the ephemeral, I felt extremely lucky I had captured this fleeting, floating moment. It was only after I finished photographing it that I discovered, much to my surprise, I was wearing only one sock.

Castanet, 2019, 13 x 17 inches, (unframed) limited edition archival pigment print

About Castanet

This photo was kind of an accident… Not that I didn’t intend to take it, but the serendipitous way it happened.

It was springtime, and sometime over the course of the winter one of my porch screens had apparently blown out. Whether it was caused by a storm or a bird collision, I don’t know, but it looked pretty useless just blowing in the wind.

Trying to pry it out of the frame, I became fascinated by the undulating patterns the mesh made. The nylon strands looked like intricate line drawings—or strange DNA structures. I picked up my camera and took a few shots of it against the empty sky, reducing it to a two-dimensional flowing pattern.

How does the old adage go? If you are dealt lemons, make lemonade. I did, and got this picture. Now I just have to find a new screen.

Represented by Kingman Gallery:

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