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Fantasy photoshoots for frontline workers

By Nathan Tsukroff

SCARBOROUGH – Kim Chapman Dionne of Gorham opened her studio in Scarborough in July 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic.

“The wedding season was just destroyed by COVID-19, and I was primarily just a wedding photographer,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a studio,” so she took over the second-floor space in a building on Holly Street in Scarborough, near Pine Point.

Called Kim Chapman Photography, the studio is a single large room with space for portrait sessions beside an area for clients to relax while they review their portraits after a session.

Kim Chapman Dionne of Kim Chapman Photography in Scarborough is in the middle of a project she calls “Fantasy Photoshoots of Frontline Workers”. She teamed up with a make-up artist and a clothing stylist to create glamour portraits of nurses, firefighters and other frontline workers. (Tsukroff photo)

Business all but stopped during the pandemic – she photographed “a couple of seniors during the summer” – and Chapman said she was at home “doing nothing”, and watching frontline workers confronting the pandemic. So she asked herself, “What can I do to help?”

And that’s when she decided to do a project she calls “Fantasy Photoshoots for Frontline Workers”.

Collaborating with a traveling hair and makeup artist, Jessica Griffin, and a clothing stylist, Hannah Martin from the Fashion Cookbook, Chapman put out a call for nominations for “deserving frontline workers” to be photographed for the project.

Ten frontline workers were selected “based on their stories,” she said.

One of the frontline workers described having “five foster kids, trying to homeschool them and be a nurse at the same time.” She was photographed recently, Chapman said.

Kim Chapman sets out portraits of Brunswick firefighter Claire Dufort from a recent portrait session in Chapman’s project to create glamour portraits for frontline workers. Called “Fantasy Photoshoots for Frontline Workers”, Chapman has help from a local make-up artist and a clothing stylist to transform her subjects for their portraits. (Tsukroff photo)

 The Fantasy Photoshoots “bring out a different personality” when the frontline workers are in front of the camera, she said. One for the workers, in her early sixties, said that during the photography, she “forgot all about her job. It was really great!”

The workers received a free makeup and hair session, and were dressed in glamorous clothing at no charge. They all received a complimentary portrait to share with family and friends.

While there was no expectation that her subjects would purchase additional portraits, some have invested in photographs for family and friends, Chapman said.

Claire Dufort, a Brunswick firefighter, was featured recently in a piece on TV station WCSH News Center Maine. Chapman captured Dufort’s dramatic transformation with her camera.

There are still some frontline workers to be photographed, Chapman said.

Chapman grew up in Gorham, the daughter of Walter Stump, a theater professor at the University of Southern Maine.

She started her career in 1997 as a children’s photographer with the name “Once Upon a Child”. She created hand-colored black-and-white photographs, that “took me hours and hours” to make. She started photographing weddings in 2003, realizing “it’s actually kind of fun!” and has photographed hundreds of weddings since then.

While living in Colorado, she worked with another photographer to photograph extreme sports events. She returned to Maine, got married and lived in Portland before returning with her family to Gorham.

Kim Chapman Dionne of Kim Chapman Photography in Scarborough holds a promotional photo album she created for Grand Central Wine Bar in Gorham, owned by her friend, Karen Nason. (Tsukroff photo)

She recently created a promotional photo album for the Grand Central Wine Bar on Railroad Avenue in Gorham, which is owned by her friend, Karen Nason. Chapman also created photographs of Nason’s  wedding venue at Spire 29, a restored church near the center of Gorham.

Chapman describes herself as self-taught, but has worked with other photographers and taken multiple on-line courses to hone her craft and her marketing skills. Her work reveals her rapport with her subjects, and her skill with lighting.

She already has about 30 high school seniors lined up for the spring and summer, plus weddings, as her business ramps up again.

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