Local photographer captures ‘Lights of Lincoln County’
Charles Richards did not start his working life as a professional portrait and wedding photographer. He was a paramedic for 11 years and a police officer for eight of those years. Finally leaving public safety after a diagnosis of PTSD, Richards found refuge and healing in the fascinating world of cameras.
Last spring, Richards saw a request on Facebook for volunteers, including photographers, from a community initiative called “716 Candles.” He signed on to the project and now has an exhibit, “Lights of Lincoln County,” circulating through the area. Part of the exhibit will be on display during Wiscasset Art Walk on Thursday, Aug. 31, 5-8 p.m.
The 716 Candles Project is a collaboration between Healthy Lincoln County and Damariscotta artist Peter Bruun and includes many other volunteers for whom experiences around addiction are a life-changing theme. “Lights of Lincoln County’ illustrates these experiences through photographic portraits. Events throughout Lincoln County, centered around International Overdose Awareness Day on A 31, use the arts and storytelling to acknowledge loss, honor recovery, and enhance addiction awareness and empathy. For details: www.716candlesproject.wordpress.com
Photographer Richards is not in recovery himself, but he did watch close family members struggle with addiction, and, as a paramedic, he saw “just about everything” associated with drug use so, “the 716 Candles Project really hits home,” he said.
Going through treatment for his PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), Richards explained, gave him an understanding for the stigma around drug use. While he decided to be open about his trauma and healing experience, he saw others denying and hiding their trauma history and behaviors which, he said, led them to self-treating with alcohol and drugs to suppress the anxiety and memories associated with PTSD.
Similarly, “people are afraid to reach out because of the stigma (associated with drug use),” he said. “Not sharing stories and talking about addiction only adds to the problem and puts more stress on people. The problem is not going away soon, so the more people can talk about their experiences publicly, the better the outcome.”
Richards’ portraits of local people living on some part of the addiction continuum are in black and white. He believes “this helps draw the viewer into the image and the emotion in the photo. I hope it brings awareness and lowers the stigma of it.”
Visitors can view portraits from the “Lights of Lincoln County” exhibit and talk with some of the people featured in the photos during the Wiscasset Art Walk. For more information about Wiscasset Art Walk and “716 Candles,” visit www.wiscassetartwalk.org or email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wiscasset Art Walk is a program of Wiscasset Creative Alliance.