Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt / LIFE
Gay Head Lighthouse, 1967
Vineyard Times With Eisie by William Marks

One day while sitting with Eisie in his office at TIME, he proudly waved his child-like hand at the tightly packed, ceiling high rows of steel shelves that supported stacks of photographic storage boxes. The only office space without shelves of photographs was a little corner by the entry door where Eisie sat in a wooden arm chair at his time-worn wooden desk. “There are tons of photographs in this room, “said Eisie, “and I can tell you what the weather was, what film and camera settings I used, what the people talked about and many other details surrounding each photographic moment. I remember all these things like it was yesterday,” he says with a strong voice filled with pride. “So far, I have taken well over one million photographs, and have traveled throughout the world on over 2,600 LIFE assignments.” After the gusto of this statement, he hesitates for a moment, his facial muscles relax and his eyes slightly tear as his softening voice goes on, “But in all my travels, I have found no place more beautiful than Martha’s Vineyard.” 

On the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Eisie felt inspired to perform what he called “photographic experiments.”  Eisie once said, “I like taking photographs of the local environment and my friends. I bring all kinds of lenses and prisms here to see what I can do with them. When on the island I can take my time and photograph what I want when I want. It is nice to relax and  take photographs without a deadline or tight shooting schedule.”  

Eisie was first introduced to the Vineyard in July 1937 by Roy Larsen, publisher of LIFE Magazine and vice president of Time Inc.. Eisie, had been living in America for only two years, and had yet to travel around his newly adopted country. Needless to say, Eisie was elated when Larsen assigned him to do a story about some remote island off the coast of Massachusetts. At the time, there was a ferry strike in progress, and travel between Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, for those without access to a private boat, was nonexistent. Eisie took the train from New York to New London, Connecticut in order to rendezvous with Larsen for prearranged transport to the Vineyard. Larsen, who had a summer home on Nantucket, owned a high-powered twin-engined speed boat. What a thrill Eisie must have experienced from the wind, splashing waves and sun as he and Roy Larsen traveled up the coast on the waters of Rhode Island Sound. “After passing the Elizabeth Islands,” recalled Eisie, “Larsen guided the boat across Vineyard Sound so we ended up passing by the Gay Head cliffs. In all my life, I had never imagined something like this could exist in nature. It was so unbelievably beautiful that it made my eyes fill with tears.” 

To listen to Eisie recall his first meeting with Martha’s Vineyard is like hearing someone reminisce about the first days of discovering a life-long love. After Roy Larsen dropped Eisie off at the Edgartown Yacht Club, Eisie took a room one block up from the harbor at the Great Harbor Inn, which is now the Kelley House. After his five day assignment of photographing the Vineyard was over, Eisie was so infatuated that he returned several times over the next six years. He would often rent a room without electricity at a Gay Head inn called the Totem Pole. In 1949 he married Kathy Kaye, with whom he couldn’t wait to share his Vineyard experience. Fortunately, it was also love at first sight for Kathy when they visited in 1950 and stayed at the Menemsha Inn. Ever since, Eisie never missed a summer vacation on the Vineyard. This was his place of rest and play, a place to have fun while refining his art of photography. Almost to the very last day of his life, Eisie could be seen traveling around the island with his Leica camera and photographing to his heart’s delight. 

Continued on next page.
To order a copy of this photo, contact
the LIFE Gallery of Photography.
The Vineyard 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 
9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 
View the Index Page 
See - The Icons - The Portraits - Photos of Eisie
Contents Editorial The Platypus Links Copyright
Past Features Camera Corner War Stories  Dirck's Gallery Comments
Issue Archives Columns Forums Mailing List E-Mail
 This site is sponsored and powered by Hewlett Packard