Friday, October 22, 2010

The Other View

Coal Wharf Fishermen, 2010

Although few of us may have been there, I’ll bet we’ve all seen pictures of the Taj Mahal. Probably the same picture, or at least it seems that way. For most people, there’s only one view of the Taj Mahal, a straight on formal shot like this that is really only interesting the first time you see it.

The shot’s informational. But what does it really tell us about the Taj? We always look at the Taj Mahal from that same angle, without knowing what it looks like from another angle. Is the Taj in the middle of a city? Is it surrounded by slums or gardens or factories? We’ll never know.

I recently saw a photograph of the Taj Mahal taken from a different angle. I wish I could remember where I saw the picture. I’d show it to you because it’s so much more interesting and yet still informational in terms of telling us what the Taj Mahal is like.

In the meantime, look how much more alive this one just by having framed the Taj Mahal through another portal.

Last week I got up each morning and took a walk along the waterfront of Edgartown, Massachusetts. One of the busiest spots early in the morning is the Town Dock, still known to old timers as the Coal Wharf. On the one hand, you wouldn’t know there’s a recession judging by all the fancy houses being built or renovated along Water Street. But judging by the scrum of building trade workers’ trucks parked at the Coal Wharf, each one carrying a half dozen or more fishing rods, you get the impression that a lot of these guys and gals have more time on their hands than they’d like.

Playing Hooky, 2010

The usual shot of the Coal Wharf fishermen is something like this.

Fishing at the Coal Wharf, 2010

I’ve taken this picture any number of times under different lighting circumstances. Here’s another shot I took two years ago. And here's yet another one from 2005.

Coal Wharf, 2005

Each morning I walked up and down the Wharf talking to the fishermen and their wives and children. Someone with a camera and clean socks is probably always going to be considered an effete visitor by locals. But I took the time to talk with each cluster of fishermen, asking about their catch and building a modest rapport over the successive days.

For reasons unknown, I wasn’t interested in making pictures of the fishermen themselves. And as the examples above demonstrate, I’ve taken the expected shots many times before. But I did want to do something visually interesting about the idea of people fishing from the Coal Wharf. And I wanted something different than the usual straightforward shots.

The result is Coal Wharf Fishermen, at the top of this post. It was taken from the walkway atop the pier roof.


  1. So there's a walkway up there. When I first saw that first frame I had a mental image of you climbing up on the roof with the camera strap between your teeth.

    Then there was the shot of all the trucks and I thought of 5:00PM ,any weekday, Independence Blvd.& Pleasure House Rd. in my rear view mirror.

  2. Thoughtful post! Very creative takes.