Photo Treks explore paper mill industry

Nov 06, 2012
Photo by: Sydney Hall This photo, taken by Trekker Sydney Hall, captures a fellow Trekker student snapping pictures for her assignment at Great Northern Paper.

Thomaston — On Oct. 24, nine eighth grade students and five adult leaders embarked on an educational expedition to explore the cultural, historical and environmental impact of the paper mill industry in Maine, all while learning about photography. The program is called Photo Treks and is offered to eighth grade students in the second year of their six-year Trekkers experience.

Photo Treks is a five-day place-based photography expedition. The program combines environmental education, digital photography and exploration with youth mentoring. Students spent four nights at Unity College; visited Maine’s Paper & Heritage Museum in Livermore Falls; and toured a former paper mill in Jay. Students also viewed a presentation by the Androscoggin River Alliance to learn about the environmental impact of the pulp and paper mill industry. Students then toured an operating mill, Great Northern Paper in East Millinocket, to learn from the company’s perspective about the pros and cons of its impact on small communities.

By showing both sides of the issue, the Trekkers students were able to make up their own minds about what they think and feel regarding the many environmental and economic issues that were discussed during the expedition. Throughout their journey, students captured the essence of the experience through digital photography.

Photographer Kari Wehrs of Maine Media Workshop in Rockport instructed the students on camera orientation and digital photography; and assisted them in selecting their best pieces to be professionally formatted and printed. Wehrs assigned each of the students a project with specific photographic goals to work toward throughout the five days.

“My goals were to fill the frame. I made decisions on what I thought best described the mills. I used different angles because I’m trying to capture dimension … what I hope the viewers will learn from my work is how the mill has an effect on the people and the towns around it,” said Trekkers student Kat Howarth in her artist statement.

Program manager and trip leader Meredith Lynt said she thinks aspect of this program with the most impact is the ability to expose young people to areas of Maine that they have never seen before and, in some cases, have never even heard of before.

“This exposure was obtained through the first-hand stories of those who have been directly impacted in some way by the paper industry. This generates respect for our state in young people and generates a sense of responsibility to care for the people and places that make up the state of Maine,” she said.

The students will be showcasing and selling their artwork in an exhibit in February at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport. To learn more about Photo Treks, contact Lynt at 594-5095. To learn more about Trekkers, visit

Trekkers is a nonprofit outdoor-based mentoring program that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. Trekkers serves the communities of St. George, Owls Head, Cushing, South Thomaston, Thomaston and Rockland. Seventh through 12th grade students meet throughout the year to design their expedition around five educational components — community service, cultural awareness, wilderness exploration, environmental awareness and adventure-based education. Trekkers’ yearlong programming culminates in a three to 14 day educational expedition within the continental United States. Trekkers is the proud recipient of the 2012 Governor’s Award for Maine’s Outstanding Nonprofit Volunteer Program.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or

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