Making Memories

An acclaimed Maine photographer captures scenes of nightlife in Standish.

By Caroline Praderio
Photos by Melonie Bennett

You might not remember the memories you make at Memory Lane Music Hall in Standish. That handsome stranger’s name, the nauseating pitch of the mechanical bull, the screech of sweaty palms against the stripper pole — these are the moments that often slip away from us even as they’re happening, whether due to intoxication, preemptive regret, or both. Then again, you might arrive at Memory Lane Music Hall on one of the nights that Melonie Bennett has come with her camera. 
Then — whether you want to recall it or not — that unceremonious tumble from the bull’s saddle might live on in one of her black-and-white prints.

Forty-four-year-old Bennett, who lives in Gorham, just a quarter-mile away from the bar, has earned high praise for a series of intimate portraits of her family members. The collection has been displayed throughout Maine, New England, and in New York City. The weekend revelers at Memory Lane Music Hall are undoubtedly a wilder bunch, but let it be clear: Bennett does not use her lens to judge. Her reasons for shooting at this bar over the past few years are deeper than you might expect. “I’m so interested in people and how they interact,” she says. “I connect with them. I just really enjoy people — the things they think up to do, the things they dare to do.”

If Maine’s night spots were a selection of alcoholic beverages, a place like this would be a shot of whiskey: not stirred but poured, not sipped but thrown back, not tasty but incomparably potent. And Bennett makes no attempt to dilute it. In their starkness, the images prove a compelling study in uninhibited human interaction — the good, the bad, and the upside down on a stripper pole.