Isaac Walton Simpson was born in 1874 in Amity, Maine near the Canadian border. To support his family of thirteen children he worked as a blacksmith, barber, musician, woodsman, mechanic, and photographer. Over his lifetime Simpson took thousands of photographs. The photographs, mostly glass negatives, were stored in the attic of the family home until one of Simpson’s grandchildren told filmmaker Sumner McKane about them. Simpson’s photographs provide a moving and rarely-seen portrait of life in northern Maine at the turn of the century. McKane interviewed Simpson’s family, found archival film, and used Simpson’s photographs to create The Maine Frontier: Through the Lens of Isaac Walton Simpson, an eye-opening documentary about the men, women and children who carved out a life a hundred years ago in the isolation of northern Maine.
Penobscot Marine Museum presents The Maine Frontier: Through the Lens of Isaac Walton Simpson, Thursday, August 13, at 7:00 pm in the First Congregational Church Vestry, 8 Church Street, Searsport, Maine. Live music composed by Sumner McKane accompanies the film. This event is made possible by a grant from the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Arts Commission. Tickets are $10; $7 for Searsport residents and Penobscot Marine Museum Members. For more information or to purchase tickets go to the event page or call 207-548-0334.
Sumner McKane grew up in Damariscotta, where his father is an electrician. He is an award-winning filmmaker and musician. His previous film In the Blood depicts the life, skills, and character of the turn-of-the-century Maine lumbermen & river drivers. He is currently working on a third film entitled Running Rum, an historical documentary that tells the story of rum-runners and bootleggers in the Northeast between the years of 1851-1933. He lives in Wiscasset, Maine with his wife and two children.
The Maine Frontier: Through the Lens of Isaac Walton Simpson is part of Exploring the Magic of Photography: Painting with Light,Penobscot Marine Museum’s first major exhibition of historic photography. It includes four exhibits, a walk-in camera, a wall of selfies taken by museum visitors, an historic darkroom, tintype and cyanotype demonstrations, and workshops on making pin-hole cameras. The four exhibits, Through Her Lens: Women Photographers of Mid-Coast Maine, 1890-1920; Twenty Best; Evolution of the Photographic Snapshot: 1888-2015; and The Carters and the Lukes – Selections from the Red Boutilier Collection are filled with inter-active opportunities for visitors including life-sized photographic cut-outs with which visitors may photograph themselves, an online exhibit of visitor photographs and comments, and QR codes and tablets providing access to audio clips of interviews, biographies, and commentary by historians, curators and professional photographers.