Today I pay tribute to one of Maine’s premier photographers, Mason Philip Smith, who died last week at the age of 83. For many years, Mason was the “go to guy” for wedding and portrait photography here in Maine. His studio on Congress Street in downtown Portland served many a client – all of whom I’m certain came away with photographs that they still treasure today.
I didn’t know Mason very well. We were more acquaintances than true friends. Most of our interactions took place through private messages on Facebook. He was a follower of this blog and often commented, via Facebook, on my work.
When it came to life and photography, you couldn’t get any more “old school” than Mason. Yet, what I found unique about him was that he totally embraced today’s technology. Many present day photographers use Photoshop and the like to compensate for their lack of camera and artistic skills. Mason used those modern tools to take what was already a very good photograph and make it better. You can teach an old dog new tricks.
When I first met Mason he spoke of a location somewhere in the woods near Belgrade that had an unusual rock formation that he hoped to photograph. However, at 80+ years of age he was a bit uncomfortable trekking into the woods by himself. So, I offered to accompany him and we made tentative plans to visit this spot. Unfortunately, one thing led to another and yet another and the excursion never happened. I know it’s my loss as I’m sure there was much I could have learned from him.
Mason enjoyed lighthouses as much as the next guy but felt there was an over-saturation of lighthouse images within the Maine photography community. He would tell me “Dan, you’re wasting your talent on lighthouses. Everybody shoots lighthouses. Shoot something else for cripe’s sake”. Even though I knew he was right, I didn’t listen. Consequently, I was both shocked and honored when he told me that my shot of Bug Light below was truly “art”.
He had a strong love for China and its people and he made yearly trips to this far away land. It is said that a good photograph reveals something about the subject as well as the photographer and it is evident in his portraits below of the Chinese that despite his often rough exterior, deep down inside he cared not only about his subjects, but people in general.
Rest in peace, Mason Smith. I regret that I didn’t take the time to get to know you better.