Harlan Crichton

MFA ’20 Photography

In 1904, at the very end of Liberty, Maine’s industrial prosperity, Donald Walker died in his stately home by the dilapidated mills. Donald’s will instructed that his home not be given his family, but instead burnt down. I grew up in this town and I can imagine that on a humid summer night the townsfolk gathering to watch. Their faces illuminated by the orange light on the corner of Water street. I grew up hearing this, and other stories, and I became fascinated by their local significance and conversely their lack of detail. Ten days before my ninth birthday the community hall burned down. It was a grand structure that was built around the turn of last century. Driving into town we found most of the village had gathered. We stood in quiet awe and sadness, the biting cold of the February night chilling our hands while the heat from the blaze warmed our faces. The next year, a new millennium had dawned, and the town hall was replaced by a smaller building with drop ceilings and vinyl siding. I don’t think that Liberty ever fully recovered from that event. Without a venue for talent shows, community suppers and meetings, compromise and understanding seemed harder to achieve. In an attempt to perceive what lies ahead, I investigate the past and how its echos may reverberate. By photographing friends, family and strangers I suggest a possible future with a damaged landscape and toxic inhabitants. Many of the materials I use are manufactured as international signs of distress. I have sent several dozens of these signals into the night. No one has ever shown up.

Harlan Crichton was born in Maine in 1990. He was raised in a community of artists in rural Waldo County. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from Maine College of Art in 2012. Crichton received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in photography in 2020. He now lives in Liberty, Maine. His work focuses on scientific experimentation, personal narrative, optical illusions, rural legends, cycles of time and the extremes of the human experience.