About these photographs

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These photographs carry the tint of the Thirties. The gear and the boats were little changed, so these images that date from 1976 to 1982 arc back a half century earlier. As if cast from the Depression-era photos of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and the other Farm Security Administration photographers, the fishermen of the outer Cape wore the same squint to the horizon as those Dust Bowl farmers.

I was working as a photographer for the Cape Cod Times and living – and fishing – in Chatham. These were two very different fisheries: The small-boat, solitary Yankee endeavor that was Chatham inshore fishery, and the ancestral dragger fleet of Provincetown, their boats manned by brothers, cousins, and the father-in-law visiting from Madeira.

The light on the water, the grace of nautical gear, the silent ballet of crews at work were theatrical through the camera’s viewfinder. The sea’s imperatives were always clear, and the myriad details of a day fishing while arcane, were never pointless.
IThe men in these photographs were uniquely independent and chose this often-solitary life because of a need to be self-sufficient. All risks they assumed, both physical and financial, were defined by their stubbornness. Some were born to it, as natives or as the sons of immigrant Portuguese fishermen. Some came of age in the Sixties and saw fishing as a coastal version of the counter-culture commune, beyond the reach of regulation.

Each fisherman had a narrative that carried him forward, a well-considered if unspoken ethos steering his life choices. The boat, the sea, the narrative enclosed him, and I believe that he understood there was a perfection to his day. No matter how taciturn he seemed, when I asked to come on board and to take his picture, he never said no.

All of these photographs were made with Canon F-1 cameras and Iflord HP5 film. The negatives were scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 2000 and printed by Coopers Imaging in Norwich, Conn.

All photographs Copyright Milton Moore/Cape Cod Times
Contact Milton Moore at mmoore3@gmail.com for usage information.