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The exhibition "Working Men, Working Boats"

Time holds both the photograph and the photographer. I made these photographs more than 30 years ago, and time has swept much away. Many of these boats sank. Many of these men are gone. The fisheries I photographed exist now as shadows of what they were, wrecked by environmental disaster, over-regulation and over-fishing.

These photographs have the tint of the Thirties. The gear and the boats were little changed since the Depression, so these images that date from 1976 to 1982 arc back a half century.  I was working as a photographer for the Cape Cod Times and living – and fishing – in Chatham when I photographed these two very different fisheries: The small-boat, solitary Yankee endeavor that was Chatham inshore fishery, and the ancestral dragger fleet of Provincetown, their boats manned by brothers, cousins, and the father-in-law visiting from Madeira.

The light on the water, the grace of nautical gear, the silent ballet of crews at work were theatrical through the camera’s viewfinder. The sea’s imperatives were always clear, and the myriad details of a day fishing while arcane, were never pointless.

The men in these photographs were uniquely independent. All risks they assumed, both physical and financial, were defined by their stubbornness. Some were born to it, as natives or as the sons of immigrant Portuguese fishermen. Some came of age in the Sixties and saw fishing as a coastal version of the counter-culture commune, beyond the reach of regulation.

Each fisherman had a narrative that carried him forward, a well-considered if unspoken ethos steering his life choices. The boat, the sea, the narrative enclosed him, and I believe that he understood there was a perfection to his day. No matter how taciturn he seemed, when I asked to come on board and to take his picture, he never said no.

book cover.jpg
The book

The hardbound book

"Working Men, Working Boats" can be previewed and ordered from Blurb.

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