Tuesday, October 19, 2010

As If Through New Eyes

Hedge Fund Lawn, 2010

I’ve been photographing the island of Martha’s Vineyard for thirty years. In the first years my pictures were mostly family snapshots. I didn’t get serious about seeing beyond that until about ten years ago. Since that time, I’ve taken hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photographs of the island.

We were at the Vineyard again last week and I noticed something different the first morning I walked out the door with my camera. Namely, that I was drawn to different photographic subjects than before. You see, “pretty pictures” are easy to take at a place like the Vineyard, where every coastal edge is a beautiful one, the towns are each different and photogenic, where much of the interior is taken up with dense forests and where “up island” there are verdant fields that run down to the shore. Classic New England coastal shots are so ubiquitous that we’ve jokingly assigned them numbers in our family. A “#1” is anything with a lighthouse in it. A ”#2” is any picture with a weathered cedar shingle building. And so on.

I was in the midst of an early morning walk in Edgartown last Monday morning when I realized that I didn’t want to take the regular old “pretty pictures” any more. Instead, it was as if I was seeing in a new light a town waterfront that I’ve photographed so much over the years that I can pretty much recite the characteristics of each house from memory. But on Monday morning I realized, and was even a little giddy at the thought that I was looking at it with new eyes.

Okay, in the interest of honesty I’ll admit that I took a few “pretty pictures” of houses. You’re going to do that because it’s so easy to do. But I knew that I already had a hundred good “expected” photos of the Water Street homes from prior visits. So I made a deliberate decision to stop taking photos of houses and started looking for other ways to tell the story of this place.

Hedge Fund Lawn, above, is a good example of this. The house just out of view is gorgeous. But what struck me about this residence was not the fancy house, but rather the striking simplicity of the lines of the fence, the green lawn and the blue sea and sky. These elements—all exquisitely installed and all conspicuously costly to maintain in a dynamic waterfront location-- tell me more about the extravagant wealth being spent on seasonal vacation homes on the Vineyard than any picture of the house would have.


  1. I agree. And, wow, what a strong composition---arcs and diagonals that take you through the space at a stately pace.

  2. What a gorgeous image! A wonderful view to enjoy each day. Love the strong shadows along the fence line.

  3. I agree, as well. The composition is simple but says so much. You've inspired me again, Chris. There are several shots dealing with the effects of harsh weather both here and back home I have in mind now. Thanks!