PORTLAND — Sen. Angus King owes a big thanks to both Sen. Cory Booker and to Instagram. Without the suggestion of the New Jersey senator to join the social media service, King’s new book of photography wouldn’t be a reality.

King will sign copies of “A Senator’s Eye: Celebrating Maine, Washington, and the Joys of Scraping the Windshield” at Mustard Seed Bookstore in Bath from 2:30-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 28. The book, which contains about 160 pictures taken by Maine’s junior senator over the last few years, was released earlier this month.

It was a few years ago that Booker, a rising Democrat who many expect to run for president in 2020, suggested King join Instagram. After spending six months convincing his staff to allow him free reign on the service, King began posting pictures of his daily activities — including his work in the Senate, traveling around the world or spending time at home in Maine. 

“I’ve always liked photography and I’ve always liked writing, and this enables me to do those two things together,” King said during an interview at Sherman’s bookstore in Portland recently. “I’ve tried to give little glimpses of my unusual life in Washington and in Maine.” 

He added: “I have views that people normally don’t get from within the Capitol, and I try to get views that you don’t usually see on a postcard.” 

The process begins, for example, while sitting in a meeting in his office in Washington, D.C. He said he’ll look out the window and see the National Mall, take a picture and leave it in his phone. Later that night, he’ll write a caption and hash tags and post it online.

King, 74, said the photos in the 167-page book give people a look at the life of a United States senator — a life that more closely resembles that of an everyday person: One series of pictures includes a shot of him eating a sandwich before a vote, having lunch in an empty meeting room and scraping ice off his windshield.

“People have this image, but it’s just regular stuff,” he said. 

King said the book not only has pictures he took in parts of the world most people don’t get to see — such as a subway system under the Capitol that is usually restricted to those serving in the House and Senate, their staff and guests. 

King estimated only about 5 percent to 10 percent of his posts, and the photos in this book, have any connection to politics.

“They’re mostly pictures of life, which is what makes it fun,” King said. 

There are pictures taken in New York City and at Arlington National Cemetery.

And then there’s the photos of Maine.

Those images include a double rainbow spied at a Little League game in Aroostook County, marching in the Bath Heritage Days parade and biking in Carrabassett Valley. There are shots of King meeting veterans in Portland, laughing at a cow in Clinton and watching a sled-dog race in Fort Kent.

“I can’t stop taking pictures of Maine,” he said.

One of his favorite photos is of a statue of Joshua Chamberlain, the famed civil war hero who, like King, is a former Maine governor. The image was captured at night on the Bowdoin College campus where Chamberlain served as the college’s president. Snow covered the ground, and artificial light was causing the photo to look too bright. King improvised, covering the light with his gloves and a hat.

“I’m proud of this one as a photographer because when I took it, the light was so bright that it dominated the picture,” he said. “I made it work.”

Writing the captions, or as King called them, essays, is something Mary Herman — King’s wife of more than 30 years — considers a form of visual meditation. The senator doesn’t do yoga, doesn’t knit and doesn’t walk five miles every day, so photography and writing, along with reading, are his pastimes.

“It’s all about what catches his eye, and then he spends a lot of time doing his captions using one finger on his device,” Herman said. “I’ve watched him spend 30 minutes writing a caption.”

King said he isn’t formally trained and wouldn’t be as passionate about photography were he lugging a large camera and a set of lenses around. Having a mobile device with a good image sensor, though, is a different story.

“I didn’t set out to turn this into a book,” he said. “But (the phone) is always there, and when you see something, you get the picture.”

Dean Lunt, the publisher of Islandport Press, said he and designer Teresa Lagrange sorted through all of King’s Instagram photos — between 400 and 500 pictures total — to get an idea for the collection before deciding on the book’s theme.

“It is different than other books that use professional photographers to capture staged or specific events or grand events and call it ‘life,’” Lunt said. “One take away should be how hectic and diverse a senator’s life is. One moment, Sen. King is standing as a player in the first write of history on the Senate floor, and the next he is watching a high school basketball game in Brunswick.”

Susan Shipsey, a co-owner of Mustard Seed in Bath, where King is having a signing, said she thinks people will be interested to see King’s view of the world from his unique vantage point. She said he seems to value history and has an affinity for taking pictures of things most people wouldn’t photograph.

“We’ve lost sight of the beauty of our nation, and I think this is an attempt to tell people to look at the beauty around us and not to miss out on it,” Shipsey said.

King joked that his wife often gets annoyed when they’re driving somewhere in Maine and he stops, pulls over and gets out to take a picture. He has learned to look for the right angle and the right lighting, so many times King ends up getting to an event later than expected.

“He’s always late anyway, but he’s really interested in the visuals,” Herman said. “He’s gained an appreciation for photography by noticing a light on a building or how light strikes things.”

There are more than enough photos for a second book, and Lunt said that that is a possibility. He said it’s most likely that if the book is well received, they’d print a revised edition that includes some new images and maybe some that got left on the cutting room floor.

Booker, in the foreword, said he knew there was something special about King the first time he met him — an honest manner that Booker finds comforting.

“We are all very fortunate that Angus has chosen to share his work with the world, both online and in the pages of this book,” Booker wrote.

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