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Islandport Press

Take It Easy: Portland, Maine in the 1970s - Photographs by John Duncan - SIGNED!

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Oversized trade Paperback.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! 

These copies are signed by the artist!

An amazing social document of Portland's deeply rooted past, which we hope will never be glossed over completely.  John is an amazing person, a terrific photographer, and I feel very fortunate to be able to share his work with all of you through this book.

In the 1970s, decades before this working-class Maine city was reborn as one of the trendiest and priciest small cities in America, Portland stood anxiously at an inflection point. Moribund and and neglected, it was walking a knife's edge toward an uncertain future as urban renewal efforts demolished aging buildings, preservationists rallied to save the city's historic character, and no one knew if any small Northeastern city could ever thrive again in a modern world.

Take it Easy: Portland in the 1970s revisits those uneasy days through a remarkable collection of more than 130 long-forgotten, black-and-white images captured by dishwasher, cab driver, and budding street photographer John Duncan. In images he shot while hanging with friends, walking the streets, or driving his taxi, Duncan emotionally and evocatively captured the innocence, mood, fun, spirit, struggle, and melancholy of a city and its people during an iconic era.

As Duncan clicked away with his Canon at the fleeting moments, capturing his daily life with remarkable honesty, the downtown's luster slowly crumbled. But its department stores still beckoned shoppers, rowdy dive bars ruled the night, and young people could still find affordable rents, cheap meals, and good times.

John Duncan started taking photos with his father’s old camera that took 620 film and developed them during camera club at Falmouth Middle School. After graduating from Falmouth High School in 1969, he headed to Woodstock. When he entered the working world, Duncan became a roughneck on an oil rig in Wyoming, a deckhand at Casco Bay Lines, a worker at a truck stop, and eventually joined the Air Force. With a draft lottery number of 125, it was that or move to Canada.

Upon his discharge in 1972, Duncan returned to Portland to work a  series of odd jobs, like driving a taxi and selling cotton candy with the Ringling Circus. He picked up photography again, this time focusing on the complex characters he saw during his travels. In 1979 Duncan left the U.S. for London with just $200. Duncan spent years hitchhiking through Europe, including Spain, Yugoslavia, Greece, Istanbul, Italy, and finally Sweden where he spent eight years with his wife Susanne. They came back to Portland in 1987, and Duncan picked up work as a photocopy tech and later a truck driver. Now retired, Duncan has been looking back over his photography and reminiscing about his long, almost-unbelievable life.