This summer, photography celebrates its 175th birthday, and Maine Media honors the medium by highlighting one of its most iconic practices-portraiture. Illuminating identity, celebrity, description, and memory, portrait photography captures the idea of society and culture-and our place in it.

"Portraiture is one of the great themes of photography. It's central," said MMW instructor Sean Kernan, an award-winning fine art and commercial photographer, who has captured haunting portraits of the famous as well as the marginalized.  "What interests me are the ways that the portrait can be stretched and adapted to the photographer's response to the subject. My feeling is that photography and art of all kinds, still life, landscape, etc., are a way of explaining humans to humans, and few things take us deeper into the human than portraiture."

Sean is one of 11 portrait masters that we'll be celebrating in our upcoming Portrait Session Auction on July 12. Joining fellow luminaries Sam Abell, Marco Grob, Cig Harvey, Greg Heisler, Connie Imboden, Douglas Kirkland, Patrisha McLean, Greg Miller, Joyce Tenneson, and Michael Wilson, Sean will offer a private portrait session to bidders at our sparkling summer fundraiser. These artists have photographed cultural icons like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol, Barack Obama, and Bono. Just imagine what they will capture about you. With sittings that can take place in the crafted light of an artist's studio, at a colorful county fair, or even underwater, these sessions will reveal an incredible range of photographic style. The cost of admission to the auction is just $45, but your portrait session will be priceless. 

If you haven't yet enjoyed a portraiture workshop here at MMW, this is certainly the summer to do it. Many of the artists participating in our auction will be teaching here, and many others as well, including Newman Prize winner Steven Laxton, celebrated documentarian Debbie Fleming Caffery, and rising portraiture star Lydia Panas. As we hear from our students week after week, one workshop with masters like these sets their work light years ahead. Even the instructors themselves come here to learn from their contemporaries. "The campus at Maine Media has always been my favorite because in addition to teaching here, I learn here," says Sean Kernan. "There's a kind of anthill atmosphere that excites me and makes me want to try new things."

We're hoping many of the creative and emotional risks taken by both our students and faculty will be on display in submissions to our newly launched contest, Character. Running through September 7, the contest seeks portraits and stories that reveal the human condition. We've got an impressive line up of jurors and over $13,000 in prizes in this contest especially suited to the photographic portrait. More than any other art form, portraiture's complexity has the power to articulate both emotional and physical impressions, and to reveal depths of character far greater than the limits of their dimensions. Portraits have the power to capture, transform, and transfix not only the viewer, but also both subject and artist. We look forward to seeing how 175 years of photographic portraiture has inspired you, and where you will lead the genre in the months and years ahead.