Last fall, University of Southern Maine graduate Justin Levesque of Portland spent nine days aboard an Eimskip container ship traveling from Portland to Reykjavik — all in the name of art.

“It was amazing. I loved it. I’m a little obsessed with ships. The smell of the sea and gasoline gives me flashbacks and makes me homesick,” Levesque said.

The photographer captured the working man’s view of marine trade through colorful and gritty images and podcast interviews. The results of his onboard residency, “ICELANDx207: Container,” lands in Congress Square Park on Sept. 27.

Fittingly, the photographer’s dream project will be shown in a shipping container.

“You’ll be able to walk through it,” said Levesque, who became intrigued by the idea of chronicling the crew shortly after Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping company, opened its North Atlantic headquarters in Portland in 2013. “Iceland has shown up in my backyard and entered into the Maine economy through shipping. I wanted to know, ‘What kind of effect does that have to our economic development?’”

Through his raw and nautical images aboard the MV Selfoss, viewers see below and above deck, glimpse hard-working crew members, see their maps and legends, cramped quarters, even a rainbow on the horizon.

“The ocean is the 13th crew member,” said Levesque, who is creating a self-guided multimedia exhibit including interviews with crew members that the public can access via their smartphones while viewing their portraits. The show dovetails with the 2016 Arctic Council meetings hosted by the Maine North Atlantic Development Office, which will be held in Portland from Oct. 4 to 6. The inter-governmental meeting brings senior officials from Arctic regions such as Finland, Russia and Canada to discuss Maine’s significant role.

This is not the first time a shipping container exhibit has popped up in Congress Square. The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies exhibited student work in a similar vessel in the summer of 2013.

“It feels current tapping into a conversation about transportation and shipping,” Levesque said. “While my interest began with Maine, it pivoted to the industry of shipping itself.”

“ICELANDx207: Container” will be up through Oct. 12.

Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.