A Multimedia Presentation of

Exerpted from the book
Gloucester Photographs
Published by Walker Creek Press

Introduction by Joe Garland

The earliest photographic image of Gloucester of which I'm aware was taken 140 years ago almost to the day from a second-story window looking west on what was then Front Street, now Main, right after the blizzard of April 3, 1861. Fascinating. Spooky.

Clogged with snow and cozily walled between rows of wooden homes and store fronts with their fancy roof cornices, the narrow way slides a couple of shadowy horse-drawn sleighs off into the distance. And what are those two guys in the snow below us up to, in black coats and top hats? Hold it. One guy. He moved during the time exposure and is having a chat with his ghost. Blizzards, stovepipe hats and ghosts. That's Glosta.

Another three years, and our town's second great fire (the first in 1830 had levelled the West End) erased the rest of the street and a hundred and three buildings, recorded in a couple more chilling shots of what looks like a Civil War battlefield.

Though there's nary a drop of salt water among them, these ancient and yet so dynamic images in silver leapfrog time, bypassing our great marine painter Fitz Hugh Lane. Between eye and brain and brush, Gloucester's neo-Renaissance genius with oils stilled wind, wave, sky and human motion on and around and above and beyond his beloved harbah, while photographers were still counting off the seconds for their shutter.

Our tradition of the visual arts has been the claimed province of our "knights of the brush," as a jocular local journalist dubbed them way back, and within very recent memory the Rockport Art Association declined to hang a photography show as outside its aesthetic purview.

All that is changing forever under the influence of everyone's access to instant imaging and the communication thereof on the one hand, and on the other, the persistent distaste of our knights and damsels of the brush for the down-to-earth, down-to-the-sea, down-in-the-fishhold, fish-eye, in-your-face view of what it's all about here in what was the end of the world (and thank God for it) before Route 128 thrust itself so intrusively across Squam River forty-five years ago.

And mistake not. Our place has seduced and been painted by some of America's most notable who've put up with us for the sake of our scenery and our famous luminism and the ever-incidental stage-prop fishing boat lying quaintly at its wharf like a cow at milking time.

Thank God for our foot soldiers of the lens, nearly all homegrown, and a dogged lot when it came to setting up for a photo with an accordion-size camera on a teetering tripod, figuring distance, opening, shutter speed or time exposure for a glass-plate negative as big as a window pane, then developing and printing in the dark with the foulest of chemicals.

Mainly they snapped what they saw and grew up with, the Gloucester waterfront and the outer harbor in the old times of the fishing fleet of schooners, loading and sailing and returning and unloading and sailing again, abuilding and repairing, half sunk with the burden of frozen spray, drowsing in the dock of a summer's day, sails drying, steam towboats puffing cotton, towering barques offloading salt from Europe for the world's salt fish capital, dories click-clacking across the cove, gaffrig sloops tripping trimly along past Ten Pound Island where that other genius, Winslow Homer (a rare one who actually painted people), honed his water color technique on water rats, male and female, as they goofed off around the wharves or sailed out beyond Eastern Point with Gramps.

My favorites start with Procter Brothers, the newspaper editors, and their massive output of stereoscopic views documenting Gloucester land and seascape of 125 years ago as never since; then Ernest Blatchford, Eben Parsons and Chet Morrissey, who dropped his Kodak overboard from the schooner and fished it out and kept on clicking and fishing. Then Adolph Kupsinel capturing the towering beauty and frothing drive of the greatest of the schooners in the glory days of the races with Canada a couple of generations back; and roamin', sleepless, rail-thin Charlie Lowe, late great staff photog for the Gloucester Times, who missed nothing day or night on land or sea and was often there before it happened.

And Martha Hale Harvey, way back when women didn't, ranging the busy harbor and the waterfront, afloat and ashore, lowland to upland, beach to forest to brook, leaving us a matchless panoply of place and people, all so present in our past.

Now Alexanian, ever moving, ever growing, enlarging scope and depth, yet no less rooted in our rock and water--and in us. Join Nubar in his explorations of our Gloucester and ourselves, and make them yours.

Eastern Point
Joe Garland
April 2001

Enter the Gloucester Photographs Gallery
(Designed for an 800x600 pixel monitor resolution)

Hear a RealAudio radio
interview with
Nubar Alexanian.
Gloucester Photographs
can be purchased on
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