One of the more recent additions to the PMM photo archives teamis Gilbert Welch. Like others here, he's a photographer himself, decidedly so. Gilbert grew up in Morristown, NJ, the son of a Maine native father and an Italian immigrant mother. Although he graduated from college with a degree in accounting, his notions of pursuing a staid, ordinary career quickly disappeared when he began to follow his artistic impulses.
He moved to Rockport, ME in 1979 to undertake a year of study at Maine Photographic Workshops (now Maine Media Workshops), in the days before the school received accreditation. The mean age of residents at MPW at the time was roughly 32. Gilbert remembers this as a peak experience, the time of his life. He was steeped in a culture of deep and singular passion for photography; along with everyone around him-students and instructors alike-he lived and breathed art. The diversity of ages and talent created a climate of mutual fostering; total neophytes mixed with seasoned pros, to the benefit of each. Critiques were often brutal. He recalls an experience one day of sharing a photograph in a class. He took the easy way out when asked why he made the picture, citing the beauty of the scene. The instructor read him the riot act, exhorting him to look more deeply at his creative motivations.
These lasting impressions are clear in the stories he tells. He never worked as an accountant. Everything he did after that was in service to his drive to make artistic photographs. He's worked as an assistant to commercial and corporate photographers, been an admissions clerk at MDI Hospital, worked in mom-and-pop grocery stores, and been part of a ground crew at Portland International Jetport-whatever left him time for art. His identity as a traditionalist is plain to see. He specializes in palladium printing, a costly and painstaking process which yields warm toned prints which lend a particular poignancy and elegance to their subjects. He strives to keep his eyes open. He says of photography: "In a way, we're all amateurs. Every day is a new experience."
We're lucky for his presence here. He's been volunteering in the photo archives since September of 2017 and has worked primarily at digitizing two of our glass plate collections. Our biggest thanks, Gilbert, for making a unique contribution to this cast of characters.