Photographer and Freeport resident Kerry Michaels made her first “vote” image in 2008. She shot her second in 2010, or thereabouts.

“The idea started as a way to just say ‘vote the environment,’ ” she explained. Her kids were coming of age. She wanted them to understand “how desperately important it is for their future to vote.”

She’d walk around her yard (Michaels is an accomplished gardener) searching out leaves, flowers, twigs, berries that she could use to spell out the word “vote,” the natural materials underscoring her message.

“Then, of course, in 2016 I went kind of berserk,” Michaels said, making and shooting multiple vote images, then posting the images to Facebook, Instagram (kerrymi) and Twitter, often with a link to an organization, like

This past month, Michaels has picked up the pace again. (She was composing a photo as we spoke by telephone earlier this week. Full disclosure: She is a friend of mine.) She’s been, say, watching the Kavanaugh hearings, when she’s felt an overwhelming urge to make and take a vote photo: “Oh my god, I have to do this NOW. Then I run around my yard. It’s a political panic attack. I have to turn off the news and do something about all this insanity.”

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“If (the photos) inspire one person to vote, it’s worth the time,” Kerry continued. “When I was young, I remember one election, I was working late, I didn’t vote, I just went to bed, but it was OK because Mario Cuomo was supposed to win in a landslide. And then he lost. I heard a similar story from a filmmaker of a movie, I think it was called ‘The Butler.’ A black filmmaker. His mother asked him one election day, ‘Who did you vote for?’ and he said ‘I didn’t get a chance to vote.’ His mother said, ‘People have died for the right to vote. How dare you not vote?’ That was a wakeup call.”

Michaels describes herself as an “unrepentant liberal” and “passionate about politics.”

Michaels, who specializes in landscape, garden and food photography (find her work at Kingman Gallery in Deer Isle), usually spends more time creating the vote images than shooting the photos. “They take a fair amount of time to collect the stuff and figure it out,” she said. “Vs are easy. The Os are easy. The Ts are a little harder. And the Es are the most difficult.”

She likes to shoot the pictures outside, though breezes can interfere. She sets the twigs and other objects on rough-hewn cutting boards and sheet pans, sometimes rearranging the same image on several different backgrounds and fussing with spacing between the letters and ways to make the images coalesce. She’s constrained by how quickly the objects she uses wilt. With begonias, she needs to shake a leg. With berries and twigs, she has more latitude. “When I put these things together, they are incredibly fragile. The fragility feels very appropriate to the topic of voting and the environment.”

Despite the many options given the nation’s angry and tumultuous politics, the environment remains her chief subject matter in this series, said Michaels, who describes herself as an “unrepentant liberal” and “passionate about politics.”

“I think that’s the subtext of them all. Otherwise, I’d use coat hangers,” she laughed. “Especially with all this climate stuff this week. If you don’t vote, it’s … it’s insane.” She sees voting as a habit, a habit all Americans ought to form.

Suppose her work persuades, say, a climate change denier to vote, what then?

“When I posted (a recent image) on Facebook, a friend of mine who votes differently than I do, reached out. I said, ‘Get your kids to vote.’ She said, ‘Trust me, you don’t want my kids to vote.’ And I searched my soul and I said, yes, yes I do. I think everybody should vote. Maybe it would help if we could solve our grievances by voting. I think a lot of people who (complain) the loudest don’t vote.”

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: PGrodinsky

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