By Carol McCracken
Flashbacks of his arrest last New Year’s Eve in the Old Port still control the everyday life of photographer Don Verger. Verger spent three days in jail for robbery at a hair salon he’d never entered. Then in early February his case was dismissed. Verger looks forward to the time when his creative energy will return after this trauma. He looks forward to the time when he’ll be able to refocus on photography – but that time remains sometime in the future.
Verger was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” when he was shopping in the Old Port on December 31st. Police officers stopped him and said there had been a robbery in the area. Verger fit the description provided by the witnesses – or it was close enough to take him into custody. When he was handcuffed by the police, Verger was stunned. But he says the police were gentle with him during the process. When he asked where he was going, the police responded: To Jail. “All I could think of during this was what it might be for someone else” without the resources available to me, said Verger at an interview at the Hilltop Coffee Shop yesterday afternoon. He knew he had family and many friends to support him. That kept him going.
Not only his support system kept him thinking positively, but also he focused on art during those difficult two nights and three days in jail. When he was released from jail he traveled to New York City to visit his son. During that trip, he visited The Innocence Project in New York City. And that was when he began a relationship between the two that led to the ongoing North Star Café show to benefit The Innocence Project.
Starting on Sunday, March 1st and running through the end of the month, Don Verger’s stunning photographs have been on display at the North Star Café on Congress Street at the bottom of the Hill. One hundred percent of the proceeds from that art show will be donated to The Innocence Project based in New York City. “IP” povides pro bono post-conviction legal assistance to persons whose claims of innocence might be demonstalby proven by DNA testing. So far, it has exonerated over 200 people.
Verger bears no grudge against the Portland police department for his arrest on December 31st, despite his ordeal. They were doing their job he says and the public needs to know that. But this traumatic event has changed his life forever. He is quick to say that it impacted his two grown children and his partner, Lois. “It’s made new relationships out of old ones,” he says. He lost part of his life on December 31st, but he’s working hard to get it back. “It’s been hard work getting to this point,” he said.
Verger, 61 years old, looks forward to the future and what it holds for him. When the flashbacks are gone and he’s regained his creative energy; he’ll be ready. Verger is already planning a book of his photographs and is looking for a publisher. He’s also just purchased a new camera. Until then, you can be reminded of his stunning photography by attending his one man show at the North Star Cafe to which he’s donating 100% of his sales to his new cause – The Innocence Project. He’d like that most of all.
Please visit www.innocenceproject.org and www.donaldverger.com for more information.
Verger is the founder and president emeritus of the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Science Discovery Museum, both in Massachusetts.