- by Carol Standish
If you're heading way down east this summer you'll certainly want to pick up a copy of Tim Peter's Rhythm of the Tides - The Fisheries of Grand Manan before you go. The talented photographer has produced an eloquent pictorial journal of a year in the lives of the people of New Brunswick's Grand Manan, the Queen of the Fundy Isles.
As the author/photographer tells the tale, the book is the direct result of a scuttled sailing trip of his own on the Bay of Fundy. Peters, who hails from Salem, Massachusetts, took the ferry from Black Harbour to the island where he and his party camped for three days in Anchorage Park. Peters couldn't stay away. For five years he kept returning to the island in all seasons to photograph its raw beauty and the pride, courage and perseverance of its people.
Between 1870 and 1940, Grand Manan became the foremost supplier of smoked herring in the world. Catching, boning, smoking and packing herring was the way most people made a living on the island. " 'In 1966, Juddy Guptill's boat, the Sarah & Stewart, alone caught 12,0000 tons. That's more than the entire nine boat quota last year…In order to make a decent living a Grand Manan fisherman has to be in three or four different fisheries,' " says Maurice Green who's been fishing for 37 years. The last smoke house was closed down in 1997 and Peters was there to record the last sticks of herring hung. His photographs of the hands-on cottage industry in all its orderly steps capture the spirit of the place. From tending the smoldering fire to boning each fish, the whole community was involved.
The herring fishery is still alive and well on Grand Manan but in addition to maintaining and harvesting the traditional herring weirs, fishermen raise Atlantic salmon in newly established salmon pens and gill-netters, purse seiners and lobster boats ply the waters of the bay. On shore, dulse and periwinkles are gathered and, of course, the potato patch is not to be ignored.
These life supporting, life affirming activities are the subject of Peter's work. In 76 lush color photographs and occasional text, Peters documents the many ways in which the people of Grand Manan maintain their 300 year old tradition of independence by harvesting the sea around them.
The photographs themselves are haunting narratives told with light and color. Peters' affinity for his subject infuses each image with a vital clarity. His compositional style is spacious and uncluttered. Heavily saturated color infuses dramatic atmospheric effects as a well as the open human faces. Many of the photographs are movingly beautiful but it is the story that they so simply tell that sets Peters' book apart from your average gorgeous book of color photography.
Rhythm of the Tides (Tim Peters Photography, 95pp, $20) is published and distributed by the author. It is widely available in bookstores throughout the coastal northeast of the U. S. and Canada. The book can also be obtained from www.timpeters.com and other web sources.