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.
“Kosti Ruohomaa sought out various light effects of weather and time of day to create mood and atmosphere in his photographs. In this series [shot in downeast Maine], he captures dramatic skies, lone early-morning workers, and the distinctive low, slanting light in the fleeting minutes of dawn.”
In the winter of 1953, Kosti was sent to Bingham, Maine on assignment for International Harvester. The International Harvester Company was a manufacturer of farm equipment and tractors from 1902-1986 and Cecil Laweryson used International Harvester equipment extensively on his farm.
Kosti Ruohomaa had an ongoing interest in links to the past. Living in an era when the wider culture was focused on modernity and progress, Ruohomaa liked to use his photographs to capture the old and the traditional.
Around 1950, Ruohomaa photographed a number of adolescent contestants in a lobster eating contest at the July Lobster Festival in Rockland. The winner, Arthur Doherty, ate his lobster in just 7½ minutes.
In or about the winter of 1947, Ruohomaa was inspired during a visit home to Dodge Mountain to spend a day taking pictures at a one room schoolhouse in the tiny town of Rockville, not far away.
George Curtis (1921-1995) grew up in Massachusetts, and later lived for many years in Owls Head, Maine. He was a pilot, fisherman, and sculptor. He and Kosti Ruohomaa were good friends and collaborated on a number of projects.
As if Ruohomaa was a staff reporter for a local paper, he thoroughly mined the neighborhoods and towns near his home for human interest pieces. In particular, he jumped at opportunities to photograph people at work.
With only 800 registered worldwide in 2013 , Chinooks are a rare breed of sled dog known for their intelligence and gentle disposition. Perry Greene of Waldoboro, Maine opened a kennel in 1940 where he bred the animals.
At the one room school which served the kids living in Rockville, Maine, Kosti dropped in on a lively party—apparently marking the approximate birthdays of several students—some 25 years after attending the school himself.
Seventy years ago this month, Ruohomaa drove a short distance down the coast while visiting his parents in Rockville, Maine to watch the activity in and around Waldoboro’s train station.