These photographs were taken at commercial fishing piers, primarily in Newport, RI and New Bedford, MA, home to the largest port for what is considered to be the most dangerous job in the United States. For an industry that is centuries old, one would think that automation would have taken over, but nothing could be further from the truth. Handling and gutting the fish, mending the nets, maintaining the engines, repairing the boats must still be done by hand.
I photograph the trawlers and docks when they are abandoned, capturing the scenes the way they were left when the fishermen and deckhands suspended their work. Despite the absence of the crew, their presence is pervasive. It is evident in the random placement of a hose, rope or net, the positioning of pulleys and cables, a door left ajar. The lack of people allows for greater emphasis on the transitional state of the site, the wear and tear from countless voyages, and the mark of the crew’s hands. Out of the chaotic mass of objects I try to extract an underlying order. Frequently my visits to the piers yield little, but on subsequent trips I find that gear has been moved, boats have come and gone, or perhaps the tide has altered their orientation. Often the changes are subtle, at times more dramatic. On occasion, a complex, loosely structured, cohesive image emerges from the scene.
Typically I compose in a traditional rectangular format but at times the subject matter speaks to me in a different way, compelling me to use different presentations – panoramas, diptychs, or grids. The grids allow for an appreciation of not only the individual photographs, but also their common elements, their relationship to adjacent pictures, and the rhythm and flow that is created by the array.
I think of this project as a collaboration with both the people who work the waterfront and the sea from which they earn their living. The forces of the sea, the hands of the crew, and the vision of the photographer join to reveal an unexpected elegance, based in movement and gesture, which arises from their co-creation.