President Obama, during his time in office, exercised his executive authority to establish 34 national monuments, solidifying his environmental legacy and surpassing all his predecessors by protecting over 550 million acres of land. One of those places, Katahdin Woods & Waters, (87,563 acres of mountains and wilderness in the North Maine) peaked the interest of lifestyle photographer Michael Wilson.
I decided just to go there and create a story on my own and see if I could sell it to other publications. I shot this in Mid-July, and it had been rumored that in August the official designation of National Monument would come about. Knowing this the story became more of a personal project.
The goal of this self-assigned project for Michael was to ultimately create a body of work that showed people enjoying the land, utilizing both still photography and video. However, with a topic such as environmental preservation and state economics, or really over any executive order or legislative acts, there’s always a chorus of criticism that follows deeming it a judicial overreach. So as with many photographers, one of the challenges that Michael faced was not to take sides on the topic of contentious debate and merely depict the land as is.
Additionally, with any excursion into the woods, there needs to be a plan. Luckily Michael had a bevy of help from local resources.
I wanted to make sure I covered as much ground and showed a variety of activities to do while up there. I rented a canoe and planned a three-day, two-night trek that would access the best views and most variety. I had some great help from The National Resource Council of Maine who provided me with great information about the land. As well as The Katahdin Woods and Waters Land Trust who sent me updated maps.
The photos grew from there, enlisting the help of his friend Nate as talent, he spun the story to depict a Native Mainer (Nate had just moved back) reconnecting to his home state with the idyllic landscape of the Katahdin Woods as a backdrop. And while Michael had initially hoped to have the story picked up by a publication, he was still delighted to have the project as a portfolio piece.
My favorite part by far was creating a body of work for myself. I haven’t been in Maine too long and getting established had been slower than I was expecting. Which meant finding time to do my own projects had all but stopped.
In addition to an excellent portfolio piece, Michael plans to edit together the video footage he shot to send out as a small mailer to prospective clients.
See more of Michael at mdwphotographic.com