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The primary (and best) reason to digitize museum collections is to share them with the public on the web. PMM’s photo archives staff has been hard at work for the past year getting to know Kosti Ruohomaa’s photographs through this process. Since he worked under the umbrella of a photo agency for most of his life (Black Star Publishing in Manhattan), the collection is most meaningfully grouped by his professional assignments: those he was given and those he conceived himself and pitched to them. It’s interesting to observe that many of the “self-assignments” were studies of particular aesthetic and cultural themes which the photographer circled back to repeatedly throughout his career.

Beginning in January of 2021, we’ll use this page to showcase a few new assignments each month. Please check back here to further explore the captivating work of this iconic Maine talent. Click on any of the thumbnails below to open that group of images in our online database.

Town Meeting—Enfield, New Hampshire

Town Meeting—Enfield, New Hampshire

Kosti Ruohomaa documented several town meetings all over New England, and not only captured democracy at work, but also the variety of people in the town, the weathered faces of the hard-working folks that he loved to focus on. In this series, Kosti documents a particular controversy being discussed at the Town Meeting of Enfield, New Hampshire in 1954.

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Hands Across the Border

Hands Across the Border

Kosti Ruohomaa took a series of photos illustrating the connections between the people living in Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, just across the border in Canada. Kosti included images of the institutions that serve both communities like the Chipman Hospital in St. Stephen and the Calais Free Library.

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Dog Washing

Dog Washing

This small group of images muses on kids with their pets, particularly an unidentified 10 year old boy proudly washing and grooming his dog, who seems to as captivated by the ritual as his owner.

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Trapper

Trapper

Kosti had a fascination with traditional skills and activities and the men who kept these traditions alive. The Maine Guides photographed in this series were hired for their hunting, fishing, and survival skills, but here we see them chatting and telling tall tales by the woodstove at the Kennebago Lake Club.

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Lobster Family

Lobster Family

In the summer of 1959, Kosti spent time with friend and writer Margaret Graham Neeson with the extended Post family at their home on tiny Mink Island, off of Jonesport, closely following three generations as they went about their days lobster fishing.

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Angora Rabbits

Angora Rabbits

Early in his study of photography, Ruohomaa dropped by the Angora Rancho farm in Van Nuys, California. The U.S. had recently entered WWII; Angora rabbits are raised for their hair, which was used to line parachutes that were being manufactured for the war effort.

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Restaurants in New England

Restaurants in New England

Kosti took a series of photos of New England restaurants, including the Parker House in Boston and Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, and a traditional clambake. Kosti showed an interest in historic buildings, and many of these restaurants were in historic structures with interiors designed to harken back to an earlier century.

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Cranberries

Cranberries

Cranberries are native to the Northeast and do not need a bog to grow; however, commercial cranberry growers typically build bogs for cranberries, using levees and flumes to control water level. Flooding the crop protects it from freezing, and the cranberries can be floated for convenient harvest.

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Children’s Summer Games

Children’s Summer Games

Kosti Ruohomaa made several photo series all illustrating the fun children have in the countryside. In this series, Kosti took vividly colored slides of children playing outdoors.

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Tide

Tide

Kosti Ruohomaa started photographing the extreme tides in the Bay of Fundy for an earlier assignment in 1949 for Life magazine when he documented gill net fishermen working in the brief and dangerous moment just before the tide comes in, which Kosti described as “grand adventure.”

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All images copyright Blackstar Publishing.