'Two for the Road' trip: Portland women's book took them off the beaten path

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PORTLAND — The title may conjure visions of a buddy movie, but city residents Tanya Whiton and Heidi Killion are closer to Robert Frost’s “Road not Taken” than Fodor’s with their new book.

“Two for the Road: Adventures in Maine,” is a self-published work of photo journalism delving into offbeat corners and people of Maine.

“We both had a strong reaction to the way Maine is marketed and sold, and you can see the impact it is having in Portland,” Whiton said Friday, Nov. 28. “It felt important to kind of put that aside.”

The book will be launched Thursday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. at The Gallery at Harmon’s & Barton’s, 584 Congress St.. But the collaboration germinated and flowered more than a decade ago when Whiton and Killion originally published photos and essays in the Portland Phoenix.

Whiton said they met more than 15 years ago while working at the former Free Street Taverna.

“We had always talked about this shared vision, but she is seeing it as a photographer and I am seeing it as a writer,” Whiton said of their collaborations, which are also found in a blog called Swimming in Opposite Directions.

Both recalled being given wide leeway in where they traveled for their work.

“Some of the places we had connections to, some of it had to do with the time of year,” Killion said.

“Some of it was pushing ourselves into situations where we weren’t as comfortable. It gave us insight,” Whiton added.

In visiting a hunting camp in Somerset County, looking for the former home of novelist Erskine Caldwell in Mount Vernon and investigating the secrets of cider making at an orchard in Buxton, Whiton and Killion stayed off the beaten path.

In accounts and photos of drag races in Oxford, seeking “sleaze” in dive bars in Old Orchard Beach, and varied uses of deer at a hunting camp, they created tales of oral and visual pungency not designed as tourist come-ons.

“The most vivid was the (hunting) lodge, and the visceral experience,” Killion said. “It is so important to so many people in Maine.”

Killion is from New Sweden in northern Aroostook County. After an itinerant childhood because her father was in the U.S. Navy, Whiton arrived from Japan as a teenager in the Hancock County town of Winter Harbor.

“When I moved to Maine, I found it to be sort of closed to me as an outsider,” Whiton said. “It was a way more profound culture shock than to move to Japan from Washington, D.C.”

Whiton and Killion revisited New Sweden and Winterport, and also went back out on the road to update what they had covered a decade ago, especially with fresh photos.

“In New Sweden, I felt like I was opening up my world, I felt a little vulnerable,” Killion said.

Whiton’s essays show not everyone they met opened up to them as they traveled.

“We both adapt pretty quickly to any sort of environment,” she said. “We are very conscious of having empathy for the people we are talking to. Even if we were in a place where we had short conversations, I like the character snapshots.”

Both said a bigger budget would not have changed their goals.

“We’d just go bigger in the same direction,” Whiton said. “More ATVs, more snowmobiles.”

A crowd-funding drive raised almost $2,400 for an initial print run of 250.The goal was $2,200, and Killion and Whiton remain impressed by the breadth of people who donated to the drive.

“Full color is pretty expensive to print and we wanted to be able to sell it at a reasonable price,” Killion said. Twenty percent of profits will be donated to the Maine Women’s Fund.

The finished product is gratifying to see, but “the ego expansion has been balanced by the insane amount of work,” Whiton said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

“Two for the Road,” with essays by Tanya Whiton and photography by Heidi Killion, captures places in Maine not often mentioned in travel guides or articles. A launch party for the book will be held Thursday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. at Harmon’s & Barton’s, 584 Congress St.

“We both had a strong reaction to the way Maine is marketed and sold, and you can see the impact it is having in Portland,” Tanya Whiton said about “Two for the Road: Adventures in Maine.” Whiton and photographer Heidi Killion first collaborated more than a decade ago and just completed the book of essays and photographs.

“In New Sweden, I felt like I was opening up my world, I felt a little vulnerable,” photographer Heidi Killian said Nov. 28 about returning to her hometown as part of the photojournalism assignments that became “Two for the Road: Adventures in Maine.”

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.