Snapshots from a Pandemic Summer in Tenants Harbor

Last year Maryland-based photographer Nolan Matthews found refuge in the Maine fishing village.

An evening shot of the coastal islands surrounding Tenants Harbor, Maine.
An evening shot of the coastal islands surrounding Tenants Harbor.

I am not from Maine. I do not own a home here, nor do I regularly vacation here. However, despite my outsider status, Maine became my 2020 saving grace. I live and work in Baltimore, Maryland, as a photographer and builder. My work weeks range from remodeling kitchens for clients to taking new photos for a creative project. My oldest friend is the Maine person that I am not. His grandfather set roots here, his father grew up here, and now he is sharing Maine with his family. Lucky for me, I have had the privilege of visiting their home in Tenants Harbor on multiple occasions. However, it wasn’t until 2020 that I truly took time to appreciate the beauty, the peacefulness, and the diversity of this amazing part of the world.

For me, someone who takes photographs as part of my living and thrives on visiting new places, the pandemic was a creativity gut punch. As I began to watch so many amazing people not only find ways to adapt but ways to thrive, I knew that finding a new way of looking at things right in front of me was the answer. Then my friends (and people I considered in my COVID-safe group) invited me to stay in their home for a stint up in Tenants Harbor. It was a very pandemic-friendly adventure: negative tests, then a long road trip to pure isolation in this quiet corner of Maine. Because of the pandemic, we were forced to do nothing but be present—no places to go, no people to see. The trip forced me to slow myself down, find beauty in the little things, and capture what my eyes were truly experiencing. There are so many things that I might have otherwise overlooked: the original post office across the street from my friend’s home and the treasures inside, the boathouse that contains Dyon, a 100-year-old sailboat, and the incredible miles of winding paths along the coastline. It was all there, and yet I had never seen it.

Even though I have been blessed to travel all over the world, sadly there are only a few times I can remember truly letting go and being present in the moment. The 2020 trip to Tenants Harbor forced that. It not only satisfied my sense of adventure during a pandemic, but it also taught me to be more grounded and remember the little things—this is especially important as the world starts to speed up once again here in 2021. I may be an outsider, but I now have Maine to thank for teaching me an important life lesson and giving me direction during a seemingly directionless time. I can’t wait to get back.

Fog rolls off Tenants Harbor through the spruce forest just off the coast.
Fog rolls in through the spruce forest just off the coast.
A refreshing dive off the dock into Tenants Harbor, Maine.
A refreshing dive off the dock.
The photographer’s wife shows off for the kids, jumping into Tenants harbor, Maine.
The photographer’s wife shows off for the kids.

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