Bean Hole Supper

September 27th, 2010

SEPTEMBER 26, 2010

I suppose each area of the country has its own version of a community meal that involves a day-long, slow cooking of the food. I had heard of clambakes in New England and pig roasts in the South, but I had never heard of a bean hole supper (or “suppah,” as they would say here) until I moved to Maine. For four years I had noticed announcements in the weekly paper for bean suppers, saying that they included things like coleslaw, brown bread, red-skinned hot dogs, and American chop suey (whatever that is, I wondered). I had never gone to one, though, until this past weekend, when I saw a notice board outside the Blue Point Congregational Church, just down the road from me, for an authentic bean hole supper.

I learned that not all bean suppers are cooked in bean holes. More often than not, the beans are soaked and cooked in the usual way in big pots on a stovetop or in slow cookers. Many area churches have revived the tradition of the bean hole, however, in which pots are placed on coals overnight in a hole dug in the ground. According to Marshall Goodwin, a retired dentist who spearheaded Blue Point Church’s bean hole revival 20 years ago, bean holes are part of the lumberjack history in Maine. They provided an inexpensive, convenient meal in camps and on river drives. The cook would head down river on a raft ahead of the jacks. He didn’t have an oven, of course, so he would devise a makeshift one by digging a hole and lining it with burning wood. He’d cook beans all day in it, and then would wait for the hungry lumbermen to arrive for supper.

By reading some articles on the Internet, I found that bean holes may pre-date the logging era. It’s thought that early Native Americans in Maine (possibly the Penobscots) cooked in holes in the ground for hundreds of years and that early settlers learned to make a special baked bean dish from them.

On Friday afternoon I found Dr. Goodwin, along with Shawn Brennan, Mike Wood, Richard Sterling, Arthur Leddy, and John Bauer, manning the fire pit behind the church. They had started burning wooden pallets in the hole at about 3 p.m. Brennan said that they would burn about 12 pallets down to coals over the course of five hours. The temperature inside the brick-lined hole gets up to about 1200 degrees Farenheit. The coals are then raked out and the bean pots lowered in. The hole is covered with an old metal door that they got from the American Legion Hall, carpets, and a layer of dirt.

“Come on back later,” the men said. “Several of our church members will come tonight for dinner and fellowship before we set the beans in the hole.” Well, who could pass up an invitation like that? As darkness fell and a full moon rose overhead, I found about 20 congregants gathered behind the church. They were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the coals as the final pallets were being added to the fire. Before the fire pit was raked, Brennan took pots of pea beans and kidney beans out of the back of his car, added a mixture of onion, salt port and dark molasses, and placed them over propane heaters to parboil them.

By 8:30 both the fire hole and the beans were ready to go. Everyone gathered around as the heavy pots were lugged from the parking lot. When they were successfully lowered into the pit, the women, led by Nancy Landsman, began clapping, singing an improvised song of  “The beans are in the hole,” and swaying back and forth to their own music while the men covered over the pit. It was theater and orchestra all in one.

“Come back at 8 tomorrow morning,” Mike Wood called to me as I headed to my car. “You’ll get to see us test the beans.” Twelve hours later found a small group of us back at the bean hole. Wood and John Bauer uncovered the hole. Shawn Brennan reached into the subterranean oven to take out a few samples of the beans for tasting and to see if he needed to add water to the pots to keep them from drying out. Arthur Leddy licked his lips and said he could jump in the hole and eat all the beans right then, without waiting for suppertime to roll around. When the beans passed inspection, the hole was re-covered, and the pots were left to simmer until 4 p.m.

A line stretched through the church basement as the food was set out. Baked beans, hot dogs, mac and cheese, coleslaw, brown bread, corn relish, biscuits, and an array of home-baked pies: apple, cherry, blueberry, and pumpkin. The modest fee of $6 for dinner helps to support the church, and a portion is donated to local charitable groups like the food pantry and Project Grace. While many of the diners were regulars at the suppers, there were a number of first-timers, just like me. One was Jane Maroon, along with her husband, Bill, from Delaware, who stopped to photograph the beans while she was being served. I chatted with couples from New Hampshire and Connecticut, as well.

Back in the kitchen as the crowd eventually thinned out, Shawn Brennan was getting to catch his breath. He had been at this process for more than 24 hours. I was beginning to understand why Crock Pots were invented. What a lot of work goes into a bean hole supper! “How did you like it?” Brennan asked. “You know,” he said, “the churches around here all get competitive about their bean suppers. But I knew we were on the right track a few years ago when a man came up to me after dinner and said our kidney beans were better than the Methodists’.”

Thinking About Individual Style.

August 4th, 2010

newman1.jpg  newman2.jpg  newman3.jpg

AUGUST 4, 2010

When I was first studying photography in school, our instructors would show us the work of prominent photographers to help us learn about lighting, composition, and individual style. During my portrait class I was captivated by the work of Arnold Newman.


Working primarily on assignment for magazines, Newman carried his camera and lighting equipment to his subjects, capturing them in their surroundings and finding in those settings visual elements to evoke their professions and personalities. His style was dubbed “environmental portraiture,” and it set a new standard in the post-World War II age of picture magazines. Newman photographed numerous celebrities — artists, musicians, athletes, and politicians. He felt, however, that even if the subject is not known, or is already forgotten, the photograph itself must still excite and interest the viewer.

A few years later, when I began my career as a news photographer, I found that an inordinate number of our assignments were made up of environmental portraits — often because we weren’t given the time to spend with the subject so that we could photograph them actually doing whatever it was that made them interesting. The challenge that my colleagues and I faced was to keep from letting our “portraits” devolve into snapshots of (as we would call it) “here I am with my thing.”

It’s not always easy to learn from the greats, yet to develop your own style without merely copying their work. In Newman’s words, “Too many people think they are being original when they are copying other people who copied other people. They really think if they put a little twist on it they’re original. This kills me.” What I’ve found to be an equal challenge to developing an individual style is to not get stuck in it — to keep evolving and growing.


All this is on my mind because I went to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, ME, yesterday to see an exhibition of Newman’s photographs. The show was comprised primarily of images of artists who had lived, worked, or taught in Maine — people like Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, and Paul Caponigro. A great deal of the work had been produced in the years since I left school and so was new to me. Newman died in 2006 at the age of 88, but he was still actively photographing during his 80s. He claimed that true artists never retire. What I was fascinated to see was the progression in his work, becoming almost more mysterious. I’ve posted a couple of images (photographed in the subdued lighting of the gallery) that illustrate this. Newman’s photo of Berenice Abbott, although not one of his earliest images, is still done in what I think of as classic Newman style. But his portrait of photographer Mary Ellen Mark took me by surprise. Mark’s face is almost obscured by a stream of light coming in from a window. The only other element in her “environment” is the top of the back of a chair. No cameras, no photographer’s studio. Similarly, a portrait of the painter Alan Magee showed him in a wooded setting with the shock of a hand reaching in from outside the frame toward Magee’s face.

I came across an interview which quoted one of Newman’s writings from the early 1980’s. He said, “Although my approach has become popularly known as environmental portraiture, it only suggests a part of what I have been doing and am doing. Overlooked is that my approach is also symbolic and impressionistic or whatever label one cares to use.”


The theme of developing individual style and yet keeping it fresh hit home again later that afternoon. I was listening to the radio and heard a segment about a musician I am not familiar with, jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz. He was described as one of the pioneers of “cool jazz.” At age 82, Konitz is still cutting records and playing in nightclubs. (As Newman would note, a true artist who hasn’t retired.) During the interview, Konitz said that when he plays clubs or festivals, his goal is not to repeat what he did that felt nice the night before — that he tries to “build a new row of meaningful tones.”


The interviewer then talked to New York Times jazz columnist Nate Chinen about Konitz. Chinen said Konitz’s early career was defined by his refusal to play alto like Charlie Parker, the dominant saxophonist on the scene when Konitz got there. He noted that while the level of his craft hasn’t wavered since the 1940’s., the challenge of his late career is not to play like another storied musician.


 “Now, as he’s into his 80s, said, Chinen, “the greater specter for Konitz is himself and how to avoid the danger of habitual gestures, you know, your own personal clichés. And I think that, in an interesting way, has been the spur and the motivating factor for him.”


I think that phrase is profound — “the danger of your own personal clichés.” It challenges me to identify them in my own work and to figure out what may be my own new “row of meaningful tones.”

Bowling Party.

May 27th, 2010


A few months ago I attended a Chamber of Commerce networking event and wound up winning one of the prize give-aways — a bowling party for 20 at Yankee Lanes in Portland, ME. Several people came up to me right away to ask if they could be invited whenever I chose to schedule the party. I decided, however, to donate the event to Port Resources, a non-profit organization in South Portland. Port Resources ( provides support services and maintains more than 20 residences in York and Cumberland Counties for the developmentally disabled. Because of cutbacks in state funding, Port Resources has diminshed capacity for providing recreational activities for its residents, and I felt that they could use a party more than I could.Earlier this month, staff members chaperoned a group of residents for their bowling party at Yankee Lanes. I stopped by to take a few photos. Several of the residents came up and hugged me. It was so wonderful to watch the joy on their faces as they gripped the balls and used a variety of interesting techniques to send them rolling down the alleys. It was very touching to see how such a small thing could make such a big difference to them. It was really all due to the generosity of the Portland Regional Chamber and Yankee Lanes. I was just the “middle man.”Port Resources will be holding its largest fundraising event of the year, an auction, on June 25th at The Landing at Pine Point in Scarborough. They’ve got some really terrific items, such as a family vacation at Disney World and a special night for four at Fenway Park in Boston, including transportation, dinner and four box seats. I’ve attached the invitation to the auction and hope that you will enjoy watching the video from the bowling party.

Social Media Photos.

March 15th, 2010


March 15, 2010

In a recent blog post (, Rich Brooks, president of flyte new media, listed five tips to improve your LinkedIn profile. Number two on the list was “add a photo.” Brooks says, “A few years ago it was fine not to add your photo to your LI profile; they were few and far between. But we now live in a Facebook world, people, and it’s time to get with the program. People want to see who they’re networking with. And, unlike Facebook, a photo of your dog, your kid, or that shot of you doing a 10-second upside down keg stand isn’t appropriate. (Although that last one is impressive.) Also, use a photo that was taken in the past couple of years. If you’re sporting a handlebar moustache or beehive hairdo you’re not fooling anyone.”


Are you in need of a professional looking photo for your profile? If so, take advantage of the free portrait sessions I’m offering during the upcoming Successful Thinkers meet-up at The Maine Studios on Presumpscot St. in Portland on April 6th. To reserve a 10-minute time slot, go to . You’ll receive a free digital image that may be used on any of your social media sites. While there, please take the time to talk to the folks from Port Resources, the non-profit group which is being featured that evening, and learn about their services for the developmentally disabled.

Documenting “A Day in the Life”

March 1st, 2010


MARCH 1, 2010

One of the most interesting aspects of working as a newspaper photographer was having opportunities to be a “behind the scenes” observer. Whether it was documenting the backstage activities of a theater production, photographing in an operating suite while a doctor performed surgery, or spending a day with a political candidate making the rounds in the community, it was an endless fascination to see first-hand how someone’s job is done.


I’m now bringing my experience as a documentary photographer to the corporate world with multimedia. For businesses that would like to share online with their clients an inside glimpse at their world via their company website, blog, or Facebook page, I am offering “A Day in the Life,” an audio slide show that will document the activities of your company, one of its departments, or one of its employees during the course of their business day.


I recently spent 12 hours with caterer Nancy Cerny (, from the time she began chopping vegetables first thing in the morning until the finished dishes were out on the tables and being served at one of the two events she catered that day. My story of her day is told in the slide show attached here. Please contact me if you would like to have this type of project done for your company.



A tribute to the past year and to present friends.

December 30th, 2009


DECEMBER 30, 2009

I would like to say that 2009 was “challenging,” but “grim” is really more like it. My biggest client cancelled its annual ad campaign because its revenues were down. Other companies and individuals faced with economic uncertainty also cancelled or have postponed planned photo shoots. Many area businesses have shut down entirely, so I consider myself fortunate to still be plugging away, thanks in part to long-standing clients like Stevens Institute of Technology and great referral sources like iBec Creative.


Reflecting back on the year, I’d like to acknowledge several of my photo friends and colleagues who have been going through transitions of their own. Despite their own challenges, they have reached out to give me support and encouragement, and their work is a constant inspiration to me.


Danielle Richards, my dear friend, (what would I do without you?) has successfully made the transition from newspaper photojournalist to establish herself as an outstanding wedding and portrait photographer. She takes the time to send me information to help me in my business, to listen, and best of all, with her great sense of humor, always makes me laugh. To see some of her beautiful work, visit her blog at If you post a comment on any of her entries between now and Jan. 1st, Danielle will donate a can of food for each comment to the Center for Food Action. Keep her family in your prayers, too – her son, Patrick, joined the US Marines in 2009 and may be deployed overseas some time in the new year.


Although Matt Rainey is still a working news photographer (two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize), he has developed a wedding photo business on the side. To see his amazing images, go to The student has become the teacher, little grasshopper, and I thank you for all the professional insights into the business of photography that you have shared with me this year. Matt’s wife, Michelle Segall, formerly a photo editor, is to be congratulated for recently completing her education and certification to become a paralegal. It’s not easy to switch gears from the work you’ve known and loved and been doing for years, and I admire you for the hard work you’ve put in to do that.


What can I say about my friend Mark Sullivan, who continues to fight the good fight, trying to produce good journalism in the face of an ever-downsizing newsroom and ever-increasing work load? He could give up and not care anymore, but he has too big a heart and too much pride in his work to do that. He’s one of those photographers that can do everything well, whether it’s news, or sports, or features, but his passion is rock & roll and doing concert photography. You can almost hear the sound coming out of his pictures, which you can see by going to Rock on, Mark. Mark’s wife, Doreen Sullivan, was downsized out of her job this year as a computer tech at a sister newspaper. She is now a certified Mac technician and is plugging away in a job search, still not an easy task despite all her knowledge and experience.


Thriving in their businesses despite the horrible downturn in the economy are two of my newer friends, Beth and Brian Fitzgerald. They moved into a new studio space this year, and their success is a testament to both their talent and their perserverance. Brian has launched a commercial photography business,,  since leaving his photo editing position, and Beth is continuing to make a name for herself with her high-energy wedding photography. She writes a very entertaining blog about her couples and their events, which you can read at


Najlah Feanny Hicks continues to inspire and amaze. She completed her graduate program at The New School and has launched a company called Design for Social Good, She continues to use her photography and to encourage other photographers to give back to their communities through Do 1 Thing, I wish I had a fraction of her energy. It was so great to see you during your presentation in Portland this year.


A year of so many changes for so many friends: Scott Lituchy now working as a multi-media producer at West Virginia University (and beating me mercilessly in our online games of Lexulous), Jeff Rhode taking his skills as a Mac technician to Ramapo College, Beth Balbierz starting her freelance youth sports photography business, Debby Berger and Lisa Boley each going back to school to get trained for their new futures, Lisa Kyle moving back to New York, Robert Rodriguez losing his father and surviving his own cancer scare, John Decker welcoming a new baby …. This doesn’t even include all my colleagues like Amanda B., Aris E., Bob S., Ed M., Jason T., Monika G., Kemi G., Jill B., Greg R., Derek D., Reena Rose, and so many other friends that I haven’t listed here (but I think about you more than you all know) that are out there every day, taking great pictures and hoping the economy rebounds so they can continue to do the work they love.

Thank you for doing the kind of photography that challenges me and inspires me.


Here’s hoping for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year to us all!

Tips for Photo Preservation.

November 5th, 2009


NOVEMBER 5. 2009

Although photographs are created with light, light is the enemy of the photographic print. It can cause color fading, yellowing, or brittling. To extend the life of your photographic prints and enlargements, it is recommended that you don’t keep them out on extended display. I periodically rotate the artwork hanging on my walls, whether it be photos, posters or other prints, or paintings. When new pictures go up, the older ones go into dark storage. When stored prints come back out on display, it’s like having old friends come to visit.


When you display photographs, be sure to use UV filtering glass or plastic in your frames. High temperatures and high humidity can also accelerate print deterioration. Ideal conditions for display are a temperature of 68 degrees Farenheit and 30-40% relative humidity.


When you store photographs, put them in acid free boxes. Containers in a variety of sizes can be found through sources such as or Family photo albums made with archival quality materials may also be used for storage.

The Art of Family Portraits.

October 26th, 2009


OCTOBER 26, 2009

I’ve been looking through photo albums that my mother assembled as a young woman, before she was married. There are many wonderful pictures of her, her siblings and her friends. Some are well done technically, but many suffer from the problems I’m sure you find in your own family photo albums – the blurred, out of focus images, the pictures shot a mile away from the main subject, or photos made under poor lighting conditions. While snapshots like these have their charms, the pictures I treasure most are the beautiful enlargements of family portraits that were done by a professional studio. I’ve posted one here of my grandparents and their first three children, my mother being the youngest. The images are crisp, and they are lit well. These pictures are more than a family record – they are photographic art.


From my father’s family, the only portrait that exists is one taken of his parents when they were married. There are a few snapshots of my dad and his brothers as adults, taken with buddies on army bases after they each enlisted during World War II – nothing of them as children, though, and nothing that shows them with their parents and their older sister. My dad took pictures of me and my siblings when we were growing up, but we never went as a family to a studio for a portrait sitting or had a professional photographer come to our home. We have nothing to compare with the elegant images that exist of my mother and her family. Snapshots that sit in a box, but no art to hang on a wall.


As the holidays approach and you plan for family gatherings, think about the value of having a professionally done portrait. Whether your dress up in your Sunday best or each wear an outfit that best reflects your personality, make it an occasion – a favored memory, not a chore. A professional photographer will provide many options for how to preserve your image, whether by having your portrait matted and framed or put onto a canvas enlargement to be enjoyed now and for generations to come.

Who should you hire for your next assignment?

October 16th, 2009

blogpic_101609.jpgOCTOBER 16, 2009

You are:  In charge of marketing for a corporation. Organizing an event. Planning a wedding. Starting a blog.

You want:  Beautiful, memorable photos. Images that will grab the viewer’s attention, and hold it. A new head shot. A creative Christmas card.

You need:  A photojournalist with daily newspaper experience.

Here’s why, according to Andrea James, a reporter formerly with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, you need to hire a photojournalist:

1. Photojournalists don’t make excuses — Things do go wrong, but a photojournalist who has worked for a daily newspaper is trained to do superior work, and quickly. She cannot come back to the office with no photo. The paper is coming out tomorrow; a photo is needed. She is used to operating under pressure.

2. Versatility — What I love about newspaper photographers is that they can do anything. My P-I colleagues often found themselves shooting a natural disaster one day (they all own rubber boots), a concert for the arts section the next day, and then a cake for the food section the next.

3. Consider your moment captured — How much would you pay to make sure that THE moment of your event is captured forever? This is what photojournalists are trained to do every day. At my own wedding, I knew that I didn’t have to worry about making sure our photographer (and friend) was capturing crucial moments. He was everywhere. When I saw the photos, I was delighted and saw new aspects of my own wedding that I had missed.

4. Photojournalists are problem solvers – Tell me, how do you make a photo of a technology company interesting? As a business reporter for nearly five years, I got to profile some really cool companies — but a lot of times, these companies performed a service that just wasn’t visually interesting. But I rarely worried about this — I knew we’d have a publishable photo for the newspaper because the photographer would think of something I never could have.

5. They’re the best of the best — Newspaper journalism is cutthroat. Thousands of people want to shoot photos for newspapers. However, just a few hundred actually get to do it. In short, they’ve been vetted.


For your next portrait, event, annual report, brochure, or website, come to Kathleen Kelly Photo. I’ll bring my 20 years of experience and style as a newspaper photojournalist to bear on your assignment to bring you a variety of photos and meet your deadlines.


 (Andrea’s “Five Reasons You Should Hire a Photojournalist” are reprinted with her permission. They originally appeared on her blog at

Corporate Recognition

October 12th, 2009


OCTOBER 12, 2009

Twenty years of experience at producing pictures for newspapers on tight deadlines came in handy last week when I got a call from Becky Stockbridge, owner of iBec Creative, a web design firm in Portland. She had just gotten off the phone after being interviewed by a writer for Business Week. Becky, who designed my website, had just been named as one of the magazine’s 2009 finalists for America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs.


She had to send them a photo — something more than a head shot. She needed the picture by 2 o’clock; it was 12:15. Could I help her out? I grabbed my camera bag and hopped in the car. I arrived at her office at 12:45. In the span of an hour we had done the photos, downloaded the images to the computer, and Becky was making her selection of which picture she wanted to send to the magazine.


If your business needs a photo in a hurry, you can rely on Kathleen Kelly Photo to produce quality results on deadline. Even better, though, would be having me come to your company to photograph when you’re not under deadline pressure. From executive portraits, to facilities photos, to documenting the ongoing processes of your business, I can create a body of work that you may draw upon for press releases, your website, blog, or brochures. In fact, since I maintain an archive of images shot on assignment, you may call me and have me take care of sending out press release photos for you.