Resilience Through Closed Doors

When the coronavirus pandemic reached Maine, Portland-based photographer Nicole Wolf turned her lens toward her community

In the middle of March, soon after the first cases of COVID-19 emerged in Maine, photographer Nicole Wolf saw friends in Portland beginning to shut down their businesses just as her own freelance work abruptly tapered off. She says she couldn’t sit idly while her community was suffering, so she began documenting other businesses owners’ struggles and their gut-wrenching decisions to close their doors. Over the next two months, Wolf photographed more than 70 owners of restaurants, retail stores, salons, and more, along with musicians, artists, and craftspeople, all through the closed windows or doors of their businesses or homes. “My hope is that people will see themselves in one or more of the images and that they are relatable to everyone who has had to shutter, for now, what they love so dearly,” she says. Wolf has been publishing the photos and accompanying words from the subjects to her Instagram page and has received grants from Maine Ad and Design and Creative Portland for her project, Behind Closed Doors. So far, she’s used this support to print life-size images of ten of the photographs, which she has hung in the same windows or doors in which she photographed the subjects. She would like to eventually publish a book of the project. Once some businesses began to reopen in June, Wolf contacted them again to take new photos of their operations. “I feel so indebted to be a part of this community and for you all to have been so open and vulnerable in front of my lens,” Wolf says. “Pandemic or not, Portland, Maine, is a true example that a rising tide lifts all boats.”

The businesses at the Black Box, from left: Matthew De Fio and Andrew Doolittle of Ishi Ishi, Chris Wheaton of North Optical, Kristen and Joe Camp of Campfire Pottery, Tanja Cesh of Mulxiply, Ryan Perrier and Evan Atwell of Strata, and Kyle Rancourt of Rancourt and Company.

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