The Photography of Leigh Anita
Living in Maine is like living in two places. I spend my days walking circles in the forest, down side streets, and through pocket gardens. In summertime, days pass slowly and the crystal green ocean glistens with falling waves. Deciduous forests cloak winding carriage trails to the Atlantic. In the winter there is only silence. Seaside towns that are so empty even light footsteps echo down their streets. Stone walls that once marked property lines crumble along the forest floor. Nature reclaims the ruins of ancestral homes and resort hotels. By night, dark salt water crashes against seaside cliffs while foghorns moan in the harbor. Three of the four seasons are spent in total isolation. Memories of being submerged in the amber glow of August fall away. Cicadas sing as the days grow shorter, until one morning a fog rolls in to hover above the marshland. I cross the great Piscataqua River by foot. From the bridge I watch its powerful current. Tankers pass along the waterfront with salt, freight, and scrap metal.
I grew up on a small island, and sometimes wonder if I grew up to become a small island. There are days that I escape to the city, but find vines creeping between the bricks and cobblestones.
Winter is brittle, trees lose their leaves and reach toward clouds heavy with snow. Days are dark and fade into what feels like endless night. Roads snake along the coast without streetlights, becoming treacherous after dusk. During my adolescence, I spent a great deal of time wandering the island. My brother and I made our playgrounds in abandoned bunkers and atop timber pilings that once supported an anti-submarine net to capture German U-Boats. When I couldn’t sleep, my father tapped messages on my back in morse code.
When I came of age, I left the island and all of its architectural ghosts. Every night, I found myself wandering city streets until sunrise, searching for patterns and visiting the dark waterfront. Silence no longer existed, and the stars were masked behind the ochre glow of millions of lights. As an adult, I find myself on the mainland, but within close proximity to the island and the unending loop. Although I work primarily as an illustrator, my creative process involves wandering alone and trying to understand what it means to be remote. I have returned for it. I vanish into the trees, down side streets, beneath the waves, into the salt air.