Say hello!

Please email frances.buerkens@gmail.com or use the form to reach me. I check email daily. I would love to hear from you regarding projects which include brand management, design, photography, and project management.

Questions about photography technique, mind numbing technological challenges, or equipment and tools? Ask away!

Exchange St
Portland, ME, 04101
United States

I would love to hear from you regarding projects which include brand management, design, photography, and project management.

Questions about photography technique, mind numbing technological challenges, or equipment and tools? Ask away!

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MARKETING

Retail Packaging - Natural Foods Industry

Frances Buerkens

Ocean Approved launched two retail products in 2015. Both products are all natural and contain kelp that is either cultivated on the company's farm in Maine's pristine waters or wild harvested using sustainable collection practices.

I designed the consumer packaging, keeping in mind three major factors: 1) operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the hand assembly of the label and corresponding packaging; 2) eye-catching and memorable for consumers while enhancing Ocean Approved's brand presence; 3) compliant with FDA regulations.

El Aguajal

Frances Buerkens

*This is an excerpt from my blog when I worked as a photographer for the Amazon Conservation Association at their research headquarters in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon.

Extremely chatty roommate.

Extremely chatty roommate.

I woke to the chatter of the Tamarin monkeys hyper pre-dawn conversations. Grabbing the lesser of my moldy clothing (Amazonian humidity is wreaking havoc on my wardrobe), I walked to breakfast eager to down a plate of Tuco’s Saturday morning pancakes. He served them smothered in the sickly sweet ooze of condensed milk and juicy slivers of papaya with lime. What’s not to love?

As we did every morning, the field agents and I configured our plans for the day. We did this in part to ensure that we knew the location of each person, but also to figure out who had the most interesting plans for our free day. Most of the jungle is a dark green cave with low-light conditions and heavy air. I wanted to capture the part of the Amazon that most people don’t know about: the ‘aguajal’. The aguajal is a swamp, notorious for its prime Anaconda and caiman habitats, but also the most phenomenal flowers in the forest. Naturally, I did not want to explore unchartered anaconda territory alone, so I persuaded another similarly adventurous field biologist to tag along.

The rare caiman negro. It's black skin is particularly popular for shoes and purses.

The rare caiman negro. It's black skin is particularly popular for shoes and purses.

Donning my wellies and sheathing our machetes, Will Minehart (a field agent from Seattle studying ant bird speciation) and I prepared to trek through the palm swamp. The trail out of camp was wide enough to stroll abreast listening for mammals wandering through the damp brush of the primary forest. It led to the retired airstrip, which upon entering, blinded us with an inundation of blazing sunlight.

Ten minutes passed. Heat waves shimmered elusively across the overgrown sedge grass. The open air turned from enchanting to uncomfortably scorching. Despite the exposure, birders frequent the airstrip to admire the blue and gold macaws feeding in fruit trees, turkey vultures circling overhead, and great black hawks gliding regally through the sky. Purple passifloras lined the path, which eventually enveloped us in the cool humidity of the jungle path.

Wild swamp orchid. Unidentified.

Wild swamp orchid. Unidentified.

All the paths are named after women by the Peruvian staff and locals that make our work possible. Two different artery trails had been named after staffers wives. Not knowing the history of the outer trail names, we speculated that the condition of the trails was indicative of the temperament of the lady. Some trails would never be tamed.  

Turning onto Mauritia, the path narrowed, traversing down a steep hill over dried creek beds and through thickets of thorny trees. We paused to snap photos of an inch long bullet ant, whose famed bite apparently feels like a gun-shot wound. Not wanting to test the theory, I remained a respectable distance from the menacing pincers while Will impishly directed the savage ant in circles by blowing in its face. I subscribe to a more preventative health care policy than my trail-mate.

Ficus trees clustered along the path, forcing us to climb over their buttress roots until we suddenly broke into the sunlight once again. Shiny green vanilla vines scaled lichen spotted aguaje palms while cumulous clouds garnished the pool blue sky. Ferns freckled miniature islands of palms tenaciously grasping nutrients from the rich soil, dangling flighty branches over the tea-colored waters. Parrots bickered with each other as they fed on larva in decomposing palms. Oropendulas sang drippy sweet songs, flicking their bright yellow tails as they built precarious baskets that hung from palm fronds and delicate vines. (Click here to hear an Oropendula. It was recorded and “technofied” by my friend “Glu”.)

Machete in hand, I blazed a trail across the soft terrain, testing the soft ground. High hopes of staying dry in this swamp were quickly becoming futile. The swamp was getting wetter, and we were never sure of its depth until we stopped sinking. Gasping when apparently solid ground gave way to chest deep muck, we would giggle and wrench each other free.

The numbered orange tags marking the trail were originally spaced every 25 meters. Yet the swamp is lively and never fails to exploit free space, so the markers were becoming obscured with leaves or mistaken for colorful flowers. Even after admitting water into our sweaty boots, our trip hardly moved faster. Walking to the next trail marker, even when visible, could take as long as 10 minutes in some spots, in part because we wanted to move quietly so as not to scare wildlife from our sights, but mostly because we couldn’t move any faster.

Aguajal (Home of the 26 foot anaconda!)

Aguajal (Home of the 26 foot anaconda!)

Three hours later, we entered a darker portion of the swamp, under cover of hardwood trees – a bit reminiscent of the deep south, but with more wild caiman. Rounding a thorny bush and avoiding a spiny trunked palm, I saw a yellow and black head jerk at the sight of my movement. “BLACK AND YELLOW KILLED A FELLOW” screamed across my conscious as I jumped backwards, bashing into Will and knocking us into knee-deep water once again.

Peering over the shrubs with wide owl eyes, I burst into an adrenaline-fueled laughter. I had to. It was a tortoise. We gringos can never be too sure of ourselves in an Amazonian swamp. Armed with Cipro and rubbing alcohol, we were not prepared to negotiate with a viper or a caiman, so we tend to keep on our toes.  

While hiking through the swamp, I was struck with the desire to capture an image so purely swampish that while I am writing on my Mac during the hell beast that is a March in Maine, I will feel like I am breathing the lush air of the swamp once again. Six hours and 900 photos later, I left the swamp hoping I had documented in a single shot, the uncontained rapture I feel for this unique ecosystem. My attraction to the swamp stems from my childhood. On brutally hot summer days in central Illinois suburbia, I would don my purple bathing suit and fill a dirt-filled depression in the sidewalk with the icy hose water. I played for hours, content to sit in the mud, plastering my skin and making faces at passerby’s walking to the park.

Overturning our boots in the ditch next to the laundry line, mud, insects, thorns, sticks, seeds, and a number of unidentifiable objects spilled out, the rest sticking to our pants and socks. We arrived late for lunch, but covered plates waited patiently on the white tile counters of the cool kitchen. Leaving behind muddy footprints, we grabbed our meals and plopped on the wooden benches of the comedor. We devoured the fried yucca, chicken, rice and chicha morada, a local refresco made from purple corn. Full, happy, and showered, we settled into our respective palm thatched huts to do what everybody does during a hot Amazonian afternoon after a long day in the field: take a siesta.

Salt

Frances Buerkens

This is an excerpt from my retired blog from my travels across the Western seaboard of South America.

Salt is everywhere. It's especially potent in the warm waves, but ever present upon our lips as beads of sweat evaporate and reform without regard to sun or shade. Relief from the heat arrives precisely at 6 pm when dusk cloaks the vivid blue of the sky with pale colors and then becomes black for exactly 12 hours. Hostels and homes alike empty as people take to the streets for the sheer pleasure of escaping the cinder block cells from which the afternoon heat is passed.

Shopkeepers sit on their steps and restaurants set up tables which begin to spill across the sidewalk into the middle of the road to accommodate the locals. No one can bear to eat during the day, so the night air brings a fresh appetite. The foods I do eat during the sweltering heat are usually limited to fruit juices to try and stay hydrated, and locally made ice cream pops made from heavy cream and fresh fruit purée. The pineapple pops are particularly killer.

Puerto Ayora, Galapagos is a clean, charming town whose inhabitants smile at their visitors. Everybody I talk to here is kind, helpful, and curious about who I am – particularly given that I had been around for 2 weeks. Locals ride scooters and bikes for their short commute around town, and leave bikes unlocked and unattended at municipal bike racks or propped by their pedals along the sidewalk curbs. Thievery, apparently, is nearly irrelevant. I am delighted to have a week to savor this island community, salt and all.

This afternoon brought forth the most refreshing of events. All morning, clouds obscured the sun, providing respite from direct rays, but increasing humidity. Will and I worked through the heat by reading The Hunger Games series in its entirety with a fan pointed directly at us. I occasionally paused from our marathon book session to take a tepid shower, in attempt to cool my skin. Without warning, the dark clouds finally gave way to a heavy downpour, which instantaneously over flowed from the rusty gutter. We climbed from bed and walked out our open door to stand directly in the stream of cool water that poured from the roof without regard to the clothes I was wearing. I sensed that the storm would be short lived and didn't want to waste time searching for my swimsuit.

Two minutes later, the storm abated. Flash floods had wiped out a small section of road, but no one minded since its cooling effects lasted all day. Fresh, cold water is precious, and since everyone’s rain barrels had restocked, all was well on the island.

Forging Dreams into Silver

Frances Buerkens

This is an excerpt from Willa Wirth's website that we co-wrote, after I designed her site. It captures the experience she enjoys in the production of each piece she creates, demonstrating her personal investment in the quality of her work, while also encouraging custom requests from clients.

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The Artist's Statement

I use silver wire. I form it. Forge it.  Solder it. As it begins to take shape, something special is captured. Something bigger than you or me.  

Each piece is a birth of something I have yet to completely know until it has arrived. Like a person, each piece names itself.

Wave

The relationship with this process is sacred and intimate. I put my heart into my work. I am awed with what my soul has to share.  It is my responsibility, and mission to contribute this experience, this pure essence of life to the world through my work.

I will never stop exploring. I will continue to tap into the vastness of the beauty of life and articulate my feelings through the silver. I welcome you to participate in this process, allowing me to forge your vision into a piece which resonates with you.

It is my hope that I bring light to others with shiny memoirs to be worn close to the hearts of each traveler roaming this earth. It's a journey. Let us enjoy the ride with something unique to wear.

I will forge your dreams into silver. Let me be your guide.

State-Wide Trigger Lock Giveaway

Frances Buerkens

I'm preparing to launch a state-wide trigger lock giveaway! I raised $20,000 (thanks in part to Stephen King accepting my proposal for a $10,000 match grant) and ordered my first shipment of trigger locks which I will distribute in partnership with Maine police departments.

Distribution will begin in May, upon which we will run several PSA's and advertisements to ensure that Maine families are equipped with the tools they need to keep their families safe.

For more information, please visit Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.

Maine Gun Safety Initiative for Gun Control

Logo Design

Frances Buerkens

I am thrilled to present the logo I designed for Maine Photo Works (a rebrand of Portland Photo Works). MPW does museum quality printing with small-town style customer service.

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National Coverage!

Frances Buerkens

“We wish to honor those students who became victim to Adam Lanza in his struggle for mental health,” Buerkens said Friday “The parents of Sandy Hook have stated that we do not need another minute of silence – but rather that we see the anniversary of this great tragedy as a moment to impact change.”

Read More

Community Support

Frances Buerkens

Flatbread Co. supports local non-profits by promoting them on Tuesday evenings. Come next Tuesday, December 17th, Flatbread will donate a portion of their profits to Friends of the Eastern Promenade.

Check out the graphic I made for FoEP! (It looks like a purple pizza).

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Tortilleria Pachanga - Portland, ME

Frances Buerkens

Occasionally I volunteer as a photographer for the Women's Business Center of the CEI (Coastal Enterprise Institute). Here are a few photos from my most recent shoot involving Tortilleria Pachanga - a soon to be in business traditional corn tortilla producer.

Lynne, the entrepreneur, gave me a stack of steaming tortillas in exchange for the photographs. I used the tortillas in my homemade enchiladas. The platter didn't last the night - her perfect tortillas had a lot to do with it.

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Savor those Photographs

Frances Buerkens

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I received a gem in the mail this morning from a pair of Rhode Island newlyweds.

"It's funny, whilst wedding planning I at one point declared, "I don't give a damn about photographs!" - and if they happened, good (!) but I wasn't going to worry about it.

My, how they happened! And my! Eat my words... how I now savor those photographs."

Cyclocross

Frances Buerkens

One of my clients frequently seeks volunteers to support activities hosted on the Eastern Promenade.  Friends of the Eastern Promenade is the beneficiary of the Casco Bay Cyclocross race.   

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Reclaiming History

Frances Buerkens

In an effort to reclaim a stone trestle from invasive species, Friends of the Eastern Promenade is partnering with Portland Trails to freshen the lower Eastern Promenade Trail. I created an ad using FoEP's signature purple to promote the event online (website, social media, e-newsletter, etc).

This is a perfect example of

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Published again!

Frances Buerkens

I am fortunate to say that SAGE Magazine published on of my photos on gold mining in the alluvial river plains of the Amazon. My colleague wrote this story, "The Pit in the Woods", bringing to light the myriad of social and environmental issues, and the complexity of our answers. No simple solutions are offered - instead Nigel Pitman provides insight to the overlapping territories of miners, parenthood, and environmentally conscious field biologists "from away". 

Posted by Nigel Pitman on September 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Two Pumps, Gold Mining Amazon

SAGE Magazine is thrilled to award Nigel Pitman’s “The Pit in the Woods” third place in our 2013 Environmental Writing Contest. 

[Note: Names of the children in this story have been changed.]

One afternoon, back when my daughters were too small to think for themselves, the three of us left the research station where we lived in Amazonian Peru and took a short ride down the river to the town of Boca Amigos. The town sat on the bank of the Madre de Dios, and when the current was high you could pole a boat across the soccer field and tie up at one of the houses. That afternoon the river was low, like a glass half-empty, and after beaching the canoe we climbed up the dry riverbed into town. It was a tiny place – only about ten families lived there year-round – but whenever I visited there was always someone waiting on top of that bluff. They weren’t waiting for me, though. They just liked to stand and watch the river go by.

“Paying us a visit, Doctor?” said the mayor, shaking my hand.

“Hello, Juvenal.”

The town that day was full of strangers. In the middle of the soccer field, half a dozen men in shorts and rubber boots were pushing a water pump the size of a car towards the river on a crude wooden sled. They put their shoulders to it, moved it a few steps, and sank to their knees, groaning. The rest of the town – a dozen houses nailed together with planks and corrugated zinc – was quiet. As we headed down the dirt track to the schoolhouse, heads started poking out of windows, women waved hello from their kitchens, and kids came running after us.

Click here to continue reading....

Doggy Day

Frances Buerkens

With respect to the dog visitation hours on the Eastern Promenade, I created a guide for dog ownership. Here is the header which will be used on my client's homepage slideshow for the next 6 weeks to promote the guide. See EasternPromenade.org.

The Final Concert

Frances Buerkens

Below is an ad I created for publication across three distinct platforms: My client's website homepage slideshow, their Facebook cover photo, and a Constant Contact header photo.

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