Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt / LIFE
William Street, Vineyard haven, August 1987
Vineyard Times With Eisie by William Marks

In making his statement about never missing a Vineyard summer vacation for over fifty years, Eisie always provided one qualifier - it is about the one summer he was late for his usual month long August vacation at Menemsha Inn. He was on assignment in the Galapagos, and the shoot extended into early August. Being a man of punctual habit, Eisie recalled in his later years, “I ended the assignment on the Galapagos before I was fully satisfied with what we had completed. But, for some reason I felt I wanted to return so I could have my summer on Martha’s Vineyard. That was the only August in fifty years I arrived late for my August vacation. Now, when I look back, I sometimes think I should have stayed longer at the Galapagos. The unspoiled nature there is amazing.”  

But to miss a summer season on the Vineyard meant missing time with his island friends. Every August, Eisie’s and Kathy’s galaxy of close friends and acquaintances would gather for walks; slide shows; gallery exhibits; garden teas and cocktail parties; beach outings; lunches and dinners. Compared to the Eisenstaedts’ New York socials,  their Vineyard socials were relatively relaxed, informal gatherings. After Kathy’s death, her sister, Lulu, continued the tradition of hostessing remarkable teas, luncheons and dinners at the Pilot House. Every summer, an eclectic parade of people made their way to Eisie’s Menemsha cottage.  

Eisie’s hindsight of staying longer in the Galapagos to complete the shoot to his satisfaction speaks of the photographic perfection he strived for. In reaching for perfection, Eisie exercised patience with his art form as well as with people. In shooting the photo entitled, Sailboat Near Gay Head, 1971, once said:  “It was a beautiful August afternoon, and I was working on taking a photograph of the Gay Head cliffs with just the right light. While I was photographing, I saw two sailboats far across the Vineyard Sound near Cuttyhunk. I decided to wait and see of the boats would come near the cliffs on their way to Menemsha. After several hours, one of the boats did approach the cliffs and I was able to take this photograph moments before it disappeared behind the cliffs. I remember setting up a tripod and using my Leica with a 400-millimeter lens.  

“As I was taking this photograph, a father and his young son, who had a camera, were standing nearby. I overheard the father say to his son, ‘The famous photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt would probably love to take a picture of this scene. Go ahead son, show me how Eisenstaedt would take a picture of that sailboat.’ Feeling flattered, I walked up to the man and told him I was Alfred Eisenstaedt, but he didn’t believe me! I even took out my wallet and showed him my identification, and all the man did was get angry and walk off with his son. I could never understand why he behaved so.” 

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