TOPSHAM — Jack Montgomery of Freeport is a highly-accomplished photographer and, at the same time, a long-time student of the medium. He is interested in the differences between working with film and with digital cameras, studying how photographs can stir the emotions, and considering the spiritual aspects of working within this art form. He specializes in portraits, but is most interested in storytelling — photographing people in a context that strives to evoke meaning and emotions within the viewer.

Montgomery will deliver a slide presentation and talk from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22, for First Light Camera Club on the topic of “Considering the Spiritual and Technical Aspects of Photography: One Person’s Experience.” The event will be held at the Topsham Medical Building, 4 Horton Place, and the public is welcome. Attendance is free for members of FLCC; $10 for others.

Montgomery began photographing his daughter Molly in the early 1990s. He took his father’s old camera, a Kodak pocket bellows highly popular in the 1930s, along on a vacation intending to clean it up and get it working.

Although vintage cameras of that type are capable of taking “gorgeous photos,” according to Montgomery, he was not able to use this one because the necessary film for that format was no longer made. Instead, he purchased his first twin-lens reflex camera, a Yashica-Mat, for $25, which he loved and still uses from time to time.

After a time, he moved on to a Mamiya twin-lens camera (the same type used by Diane Arbus for many years), then a Hasselblad. He favored these medium format film cameras because of the large, dense negatives they produced. While he now works digitally, he has kept all his old equipment and could “go back this afternoon” to using them. He has volumes of medium format negatives, which he still scans and incorporates into his digital work.

He reveres the craftsmanship, the pace, the immersion and the commitment to working with an image that is demanded by film. Says Montgomery, “Working in a darkroom with that small red light, the isolation, and the quiet focus that is required for developing film and printing cannot compare with snapping a photo with your iPhone or with sitting at your computer with all its distractions.”

Montgomery offers this analogy, “Traveling from Freeport to Portland, I can take one of two routes. I can arrive quickly via I-295, or I can travel Route 88. They are two very different experiences.”

“If you are prepared to work with film,” he said, “these days you can find incredible bargains. And, you can develop your own film quite simply and with inexpensive equipment that you can carry in one hand.” To prove his point, he will bring film cameras and developing tools to his talk.

Sometime around November 2016, Montgomery became interested in understanding how we perceive painting as distinguished from photographs. He wanted to learn why paintings seem to elicit a more emotional response from the viewer than photographs and so began looking at “how painters do what they do.” He attended museums in Portland, Boston and Washington, at times standing six inches away from the paintings of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth to explore brushstrokes and atmosphere.

He wanted to study not how to make his photos look more like paintings but rather how to create what was in his mind. “I have a very active imagination,” says Montgomery. Examples of his resulting “Painterly Portraits” can be seen on his website (jackmontgomeryphotography.com) as well as something of the process that goes into creating the works.

Montgomery is working on writing a book inspired by a series of photographs he took in Berlin. The writing absorbs his time, but he has photographs “waiting in the wings” to be worked upon. Since his painterly treatment of a photo can take upwards of six to eight hours, he is selective about his choices, but always anxious to begin again.

First Light Camera Club hosts tech nights, field trips and speakers from September through May and always welcomes new members. To learn more, visit www.firstlightcc.com; check the group’s Facebook page; email [email protected]; or call 207-729-6607.

“Ellidh in the Dunes,” by Freeport photographer Jack Montgomery. Montgomery will offer a slide presentation to First Light Camera Club on March 22.


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