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Dang…Double Dang….

Oct 7

In Books, Friends at 5:17am


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.

More tk….

johnwaire says:

on October 7, 2010 at 6:35 am

i read the last 2 paragraphs several times. you’ve got a gift with words joe. i love the shot — it’s a great moment! i really feel like i was there…and although i’ll never see the place…i sure felt like i experienced it. thanks!

Tim Skipper says:

on October 7, 2010 at 6:59 am

There is always something special about those small book stores, something chain stores will never have.

Being a avid reader as a teenager I would spend hours in dusty used books stores looking at books and talking the owners. I remember them and the owners clearly and understanding loosing one is like loosing a friend.

If your church is boring the next time your in the south you should try mine. I promise you will not get bored.

Oh and ordering you new book today. Thanks I’ve read the other two so much the pages turn themselves.

DennyCayman says:

on October 7, 2010 at 7:06 am

Hey Joe,

Thanks for that story it is a little like coming out of the cold just a warming up. By the way just ordered your new book can’t wait to get it.


Paul Alers says:

on October 7, 2010 at 8:11 am

Yes after taking your class, I dropped a chunk of change there like many others–sad to see it go. :(

IPBrian says:

on October 7, 2010 at 8:23 am

What a great way to honor the work of a friend. Thanks Joe!

MikeScott says:

on October 7, 2010 at 8:25 am

Went there (at your suggestion I’m sure) while attending one of your workshops in 2001.. your tribute and remembrance are perfect. Thanks for stirring this memory.

Girish says:

on October 7, 2010 at 9:09 am

Nice photograph. Thanks for sharing the memories.

ToddS says:

on October 7, 2010 at 9:10 am

Joe, You are at your best as a human story teller writing non-salesy blogs. Nice.

Bill Wittman says:

on October 7, 2010 at 9:16 am

Thanks for the morning prayer.

Tyler Vance says:

on October 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

Hi Joe,

Yes, I think I claimed Tim’s store as a dependent on my income taxes for the years I attended workshops at Maine photographic.

Sad to see him go.

Was just through Rockport last year–unfortunately he was closed but I left a card on his door.
Things seemed a little SLOW at the campus.

thanks for the memories Tim and Joe.


Andreas says:

on October 7, 2010 at 10:53 am

Joe, i really admire your way to write, it makes me feel like i know the place and person you’re writing about, makes it feels like i’m there, you’re a god when it comes to writing and photographing!

Capturesque says:

on October 7, 2010 at 10:55 am

Wow, I understand the whole can’t feel sad for him but in a way like you said certainly feel sad for us but I can’t help be a tad sad for him too. Great post.

Nathan Varney says:

on October 7, 2010 at 11:09 am

It’ll be sad to see Tim close up shop. However, I hope he does well in whatever new adventure he sets out for.
I, Like many others, have dropped half a paycheck there.

Daithí says:

on October 7, 2010 at 11:13 am

Although I’ve never been, this place reminds me of Gunns camera store on Wexford Street, Dublin. It’s a tiny little place, family run. Always a pleasure to ‘shimmy’ around in and always a source of good advice.

I love giving them my business and just hope in this age of on-line shopping (of which I do plenty) that people still see the incredible value to be had there, even if the prices are slightly higher.

I hope they never have to permanently close the doors!

Lovely post Joe, thanks.

Terry Wheeler says:

on October 7, 2010 at 11:19 am

Amazing how such a simple picture can say so much!

Lily Luna says:

on October 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Thanks for sharing the memories, made my coffee so much more enjoyable

Graham Hedrick says:

on October 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Too bad. It was a great place to visit. I hope he did not get over-run buy the Amazon thingy.

Clif Page says:

on October 7, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Thanks Tim for your wonderful shop. I have parted with some cash there in the past, and very single penny was worth it. I could have spent more but my wallet and flooring could never recover.
Enjoy life.

Jim says:

on October 7, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Got your new book today, Thanks. I here you got # 4 in the works, Lookin forward to that one to.

David Apeji says:

on October 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Just got your book. Excellent as usual!

Mike Neale says:

on October 8, 2010 at 12:45 am

What takes 4 yrs to learn at the University, now has a one and 1/2 yr half-life,…and the “Think Tankers” can’t even imagine what will exist in 5 yrs,…technology is moving that fast,…where are we headed Joe?



Tom McKean says:

on October 8, 2010 at 6:28 am

Aaah, I remember Tim and his shop very well. especially being there and being in another world. Looking at all these wonderful photography books. So peaceful and quiet. Thanks for the heads up Joe. I’ll miss him too when I go back to Rockport.

Craig Larson says:

on October 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Moved in two ways. First by the story about Tim and connected with my own feelings when our local bookstore shut down. Then moved with exitement that your new book is out…but wait where can I buy it? Amazon? The bookstore killer?

Deb Rabon says:

on October 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm

How sweet. Thanks for sharing. That’s the way to honor a relationship.

Rob Trubia says:

on October 8, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Joe, please right a book nothing to do with photography. Keep writing photography books please but it would be so much fun to read an entire book that reads like your best posts about people and places. This is great stuff!

Anne says:

on October 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I have always loved environmental portraits, they can say so much about the person. But then I went back and looked and noticed the expression on the dog’s face. I had to laugh because I swear Maya is thinking, “Oh my God, not another photographer! How many times do I have to pose? ” OK, just kidding. I think Tim has been very lucky to have had such a charmed life. This is the kind of picture they were talking about when they said a picture is worth a thousand words.

Alejandro Cerutti says:

on October 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm

As always, a great post.
Thanks Joe.
Greetings from Argentina.

Peter Ralston says:

on October 13, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Joe, we’ve met once or twice over the years. I live on Camden Street right down the hill from Maine Media Workshops (which were hopping this year) and wanted you to know how much on target you are about Tim, of course. My wife, Terri, and I are taking over that space and will be opening a photography gallery there late this fall.

We absolutely know that we are stepping into sacred space there….Tim’s shoes will be a great challenge to fill. Maya will be succeeded by our sweet dog Lucy and I hope that we’ll see you and many others dropping by to check out what we’ve done…and are doing.

I love what you had to say about safe ports in storms…I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life poking around this coast on boats and there’s nothing like a good safe spot. We/I aim to honor Tim and all that have gone before at 25 Main Street by keeping that vibe alive and well.

And, by the way, to all interested parties….Tim is NOT out of business, just out of that space. He’s online and he’s selling books at the new Maine Media Workshop gallery just up the street. I hope that everyone will stay in touch with him. People just don’t come any better.

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