“I love the people I photograph. I mean, they’re my friends. I’ve never met most of them or I don’t know them at all, yet through my images I live with them.”
Yesterday was a beautiful day on the island. Sunny and in the mid-sixties, we actually found ourselves shedding layers instead of piling jackets on top of our jackets. We started the morning with the Memorial Day parade that the islanders hold every year, but quickly realized that getting photographs might have been more complicated than we thought.
Personally, I love taking pictures of strangers. I think there’s something beautiful about trying to capture a person without having any preconceived notions about their personality, their past, their fears. But for some reason this time felt different. The Memorial Day parade was to honor every single man and woman–all 533 of them–who had lived on Vinalhaven and died serving their country. All 533 names were read aloud, along with the wars that took their lives. As an outsider, it felt wrong doing anything other than blending into the shadows and observing quietly. Among the large group of people, even my camera shutter noise felt loud.
After the parade, half of us went on a boat ride with a bird watcher named John, where we learned that 65 degrees may as well be 25 in the middle of the freezing ocean with the wind blowing for three hours.
So we were wet, cold, and happy. I’m not sure how much John has in the way of money, but the man has his boat, his birds, and his islands. And I’m willing to bet he’s a lot happier than some people who have a lot more than that. He towed us around to the surrounding islands, of which he knew the names, histories, and approximate size populations of all major birds. To be honest, we were much more fascinated by the seals.
They would dive off of the rocks as soon as the boat got too close, making us believe they were terrified… until they started following us. They would swim out for a bit and pop up their heads closer and closer, playing with us. We squealed like dolphins every time they surfaced. Poor John just wanted to see his birds.
Our farthest destination was an island with a lighthouse that apparently used to be accessible to people. John made it sound like there was much more to the story than an accidental destruction of a boating dock, but wouldn’t say much more. Every fifteen seconds or so, the lighthouse let out a screeching beep that could give a zombie chills. So of course, the seals completely ignored it.
We could probably learn something from them.