Sunday, August 27, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Bass Harbor II

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: By afternoon the cove is quiet, lobstering done for the day. In the morning, when the lobstermen leave, it will be different.

Bass Harbor is a well-sheltered cove at the outer, western edge of the Acadian Peninsula, the outer edge of the mainland. This edge gives Bass Harbor lobstermen an edge in getting to the lobsters and the mainland link gives an edge in getting them to market. Anyone who wakes early and goes down to the town dock before dawn will begin to see the pickups roll in and will meet the fishermen of Bernard getting the edge. Most have been here for generations. Long before the sun is up captains will row or motor to lobster smacks anchored mid-harbor, while mates gather whatever is not already aboard and stack it beside the winch where the smack will dock. There may be hampers of bait, new traps, new lines & buoys, food and coffee to be handed or lowered to the captain when the boat pulls up and docks. Once loaded, captain and mate will sail past the jetty and the large pier where the ferries to Swans Island and Frenchboro dock, past the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse to the sea between coastal islands and to the traps the fishermen have set. The pickups will continue arriving at the Town Dock throughout the morning and slowly the parking area behind the dock will fill with a tide of pickups which will begin to turn around 10 or 10:30 AM after the lobster buyer has arrived with his white truck and scales. 

In the afternoon civilians and tourists will begin arriving for a lobster dinner at Thurston’s, a walk along the docks and a few selfies.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I’m pleased to share the news that two of my photographs:

Waterbury Grit
Holmes, Booth & Haydens’ Lampworks from Rolling Mill Playground

 will be included in an exhibition:

I Believe in Waterbury

at the
Mattatuck Museum
Sept. 10 to Dec. 3
Opening Reception: Sept 10, 1-3 PM

Waterbury Grit:

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: What portion of the program of local Connecticut art museums should be focused on artists whose muses are local, who sometimes speak with a special intimacy because they speak of places that have gotten under their fingernails? What responsibility do Connecticut museums have to nurture this resource, or do we already look and behave like everywhere else? What rewards might come from people seeing their own communities through an artist’s eyes, not just the pretty places but the real places? It’s my own feeling that every Connecticut museum should have an ongoing series of exhibits of locally inspired art. 

I applaud the Mattatuck Museum for calling on local artist to create art that I hope will challenge the people of Connecticut to look again at Waterbury and to understand it and to celebrate its strengths? I hope everyone will get there, and I invite friends to come to the opening reception on Sept. 10 from 1-3

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bass Harbor

Bass Harbor

Bedrock America 
Of soil and sea
Toil and commerce
Right of passage
Father to son
Island of tradition
Water suffering the shore.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Maine Lobsterman at Dawn

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The typical lobsterman sets his pots and visits a portion of them each day. The routine, done at a sprint, is grueling. The lobsterman knows his traps by the markings on the buoys that float above them, and "lobster wars" have been started by men who disrespected other men’s pots or set pots in the wrong waters. Rules and forums for settling disputes have evolved a culture to make lobster fishing profitable for all. Typically, the captain steers to where he can grab a buoy and wraps the rope around a winch on the side of the boat beside the helm. With the flip of a switch a pot is pulled from the bottom. 

Dan's pots are set in pairs. Hauling them onto the gunwale is hard work for strong men who hope the pots will be heavier with lobsters. As soon as Dan and Nate have hauled the first pot onto the gunwale, Dan is retrieving a second one and Nate is emptying the first. Nate works like a film on fast-forward as I struggle to snap meaningful frames. Each lobster must be checked. It must be above a certain length, below a certain weight, not have eggs or a notched tail. If the lobster has eggs, Nate must notch the tail and toss it back. That lobster has been granted a long and productive life unthreatened by the men who will catch her children. A female with eggs or a notch that makes it into the tank can result in a $500 fine to the lobstermen. After Nate has selected the keepers, he bands two claws faster than a toupee in a hurricane and drops them through a hole to a tank filled with water. Hard-shell lobsters get double-banded and set aside; they are double the value.

Lobster fishing is a classic American Industry. It’s still carried on by hundreds of independent businesspeople who own their own boats, hire workers and maintain a capital investment. About twice as many lobsters are caught on the North Atlantic Coast in Maine and Canada as in second-ranked Norway. Lobster became fine dining in Boston and New York in the mid-nineteenth century; before that lobsters were sea bugs. To meet the new demand, Maine lobstermen developed the ubiquitous "lobster smack," a boat customized with an open cabin and a place to store the lobsters to keep them alive. The large American Lobster found in Maine and Canada is considered by many to be the best dining-lobster in the world.

Of course, the smallest markup goes to the men who make the catch; none live lavishly. In the middle of Bass Harbor are floating docks where senior lobstermen have been granted space where they may pen a small portion of the lobsters they have caught. This allows them to catch when lobsters are plentiful and sell when they are scarce and the price has risen. While visiting Stonington, later in the trip, I passed a wooden impoundment in one of the coves. I learned that is where the big lobster companies can store tens of thousands of lobsters employing the same strategy to maximize profits while fit supply to demand. Tanking the catch is not an option for most lobstermen, however. They live at the bottom of the food chain and must take what they are given. Their houses are small, but the ocean’s horizon is large. All I met cherish their way of living.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Maine Lobsterman Before Dawn

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  I met Dan in 2011 as he docked and tied off the smallest lobster boat I’d ever seen. He called it his “skiff.” At the time, he was a young man still in school. He had recently been given privileges to set a small number of traps in the region serviced by Bass Harbor. I’d just been out photographing on a full size boat, and I had some idea how much hard work there was for a team of two to pull, bait and set traps. I was struck by Dan’s self-confidence and drive. I’d never seen a lobster boat like his before; the cabin on his skiff was almost narrower than his shoulders. I’ve been told that’s the way many young lobstermen begin.

It happened that the next day I was on the opposite shore of Bass Harbor, and I caught a picture of him in his skiff as he returned to port in the cove below me. When I saw him on the dock one more time, we exchanged emails so I could send him the picture, and we have remained in contact from time to time since. In six years he has traded his skiff for a full boat, married and begun a family and increased the number of traps he pulls, baits and sets, and he has a mate who works for him now. When he contacted me recently and asked to buy a print of the picture I’d taken of him in his skiff, I asked if he would trade it for a chance to photograph him at work. We met on the dock at 4 AM, and I gave him a large, framed photograph. This shot was taken as soon as there was enough light to make an image and 20 minutes before the sun rose. 

My thanks to Dan and Nate for letting me photograph them at their work.