Wiscasset resident Lucia Droby and her son, Jon Burns, who is in addiction recovery. “I’m one of the lucky mothers,” she says, “my son is alive and in recovery.” People can view this and other ‘Lights of Lincoln County’ portraits by Charles Richards during Wiscasset Art Walk, Thursday, Aug. 31. Charles Richards photo

WISCASSET — Charles Richards did not start his working life as a professional portrait and wedding photographer. He was a paramedic for 11 years and a police officer for eight of those years. Finally leaving public safety after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, Richards found refuge and healing in the world of cameras.

Bath photographer Charles Richards’ collection of portraits of people affected by addiction, “Lights of Lincoln County,” is part of the 716 Candles Project and can be viewed during Wiscasset Art Walk from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31. Aasha Edwards photo

Last spring, Richards, of Bath, saw a request on Facebook for volunteers, including photographers, from a community initiative called 716 Candles. He signed on to the project and now has an exhibit, “Lights of Lincoln County,” circulating through the area.

Part of the exhibit will be on display during Wiscasset Art Walk, scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, according to a news release from event coordinator Lucia Droby.

The 716 Candles Project, a collaboration between Healthy Lincoln County and Damariscotta artist Peter Bruun, includes many other volunteers for whom experiences around addiction are a life-changing theme. “Lights of Lincoln County” illustrates these experiences through photographic portraits. Events throughout Lincoln County, centered around International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, use the arts and storytelling to acknowledge loss, honor recovery, and enhance addiction awareness and empathy.

For details, visit 716candlesproject.wordpress.com.

Richards is not in recovery himself, but he did watch close family members struggle with addiction, and, as a paramedic, he saw “just about everything” associated with drug use, so “the 716 Candles Project really hits home,” he said.


Wiscasset’s Taylor family lost Alex Taylor to drug overdose in 2020 at the age of 19. In the “Lights of Lincoln County” exhibit, his step-sister, Chelsea Taylor, left, and his mother, Deb Taylor, hold his photo with the refrain, “You are deeply loved,” which became a shared sentiment throughout the community after his passing. Charles Richards photo

Going through treatment for his PTSD, Richards explained, gave him an understanding for the stigma around drug use. While he decided to be open about his trauma and healing experience, he saw others denying and hiding their trauma history and behaviors which, he said, led them to self-treating with alcohol and drugs to suppress the anxiety and memories associated with PTSD.

Similarly, “people are afraid to reach out because of the stigma (associated with drug use),” he said. “Not sharing stories and talking about addiction only adds to the problem and puts more stress on people. The problem is not going away soon, so the more people can talk about their experiences publicly, the better the outcome.”


Richards’ portraits of local people living on some part of the addiction continuum are in black and white. He believes “this helps draw the viewer into the image and the emotion in the photo. I hope it brings awareness and lowers the stigma of it.”

Visitors can view portraits from the exhibit and talk with some of the people featured in the photos during the Wiscasset Art Walk.

For more information, visit wiscassetartwalk.org or email wiscassetartwalk@gmail.com. Wiscasset Art Walk is a program of Wiscasset Creative Alliance.

Check out other upcoming area events!

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