But these days she's more comfortable as a work-from-home business owner. "I love being in charge of my own time," she says, although it's not all breezy brainstorming. "I'm still learning how to be a boss — that's not easy for me. I'm learning to listen to myself and not make decisions by committee. Balancing caution and boldness is hard."
So is balancing edginess with restraint, a fine line that can sometimes be difficult to locate. For example, during the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke-"Slut" incident of 2012, Taintor dug up an old design: a group of fancily dressed co-eds socializing at a party, with the caption (next to a girl in pink), I enjoy being a slut.
The image caused such a stir (generating a 50-comment, heated debate on Facebook, for one thing) that Taintor addressed the subject on her blog. "No . . . the design was not inspired by Mr. Limbaugh or by the current brouhaha," she wrote. "It was inspired, as is so much of my work, by frustration with self-satisfied gender-stereotyping misogynistic blowhards. By frustration with men whose sense of their own strength is predicated upon their ability to control women, particularly, it seems, their sexuality."
The episode caused her to realize (with some amount of surprise) "how conservative some of my fans are. [My products] give them a way to snigger a little without having to say it out loud."
And if her work has any overriding message or purpose, it is just that — giving women the freedom to say, Phew, someone else feels like I do.
"I grew up with a fairly big chip on my shoulder early on about being a girl," Taintor says, describing what she saw as limited horizons (as a child, she expressed desire to become a priest and was devastated to learn that path was not an option). But she is grateful to have channeled those frustrations in a way that is "humorous instead of angry."
'TEA HOUSE DOMINOES' This photo, taken in Amara, Iraq, is one of Appleton's personal favorites among her work.
Camden photojournalist Samantha Appleton has documented everything from President Barack Obama playing pool (yes, that iconic image) to aerial bombings in Lebanon to troops on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. The longtime conflict photographer, who also served as an official White House photographer from 2008 to 2011, will receive the MWF's Sarah Orne Jewett award, given to "a Maine woman who exhibits the attributes of the women in Jewett's works of fiction: true grit, independence, courage, humor, and discipline."
Appleton, who has frequently headed toward places from which others were fleeing, has surely demonstrated all these qualities. Her photos are quiet and strong, with staying power —they truly capture a moment. This is a style she's cultivated over the years.
One of her personal favorites is a photo she took of a group of men playing dominos in a tea house in Amara, Iraq. The image is shadowy and, at first glance, unremarkable. But a deeper look reveals such different expressions on the men's faces: hopefulness, fear, anger, and more. In that moment, Appleton saw an accurate reflection of the country she had gotten to know.