Image making began for Joel Woods when he first watched a lobsterman coil rope—an action performed so often, for so many years, that it was as natural as breathing. Woods saw the expertise that had been handed down through generations, and the raw beauty of boat, sea, and purpose merged in the act of coiling rope attached to a lobster trap. With a disposable camera, Woods snapped a photo. “I was seeing the fisherman’s world with brand-new eyes,” he says. “Work they have done for years—and they have stopped looking at it.” He saw the colors of fish, how nets dance on water, thousands of sunrises and sunsets, waves rising terrifyingly high 150 miles out to sea. With a camera, he found a way to remember it all and what he has come to know about himself: that he can be both fisherman and artist.
– Yankee Editor Mel Allen
See Joel’s 2017 feature photo essay: A Hard Life Made Beautiful
Captions by Joel Woods.
On a blustery autumn day, the boys wait for the cue from the wheelhouse to let the south end go. Foreground – Roger Raymond Background – Dennis Pollak on board the F/V Carol Coles – Portsmouth, NH
This is one of my favorites…It’s an example of seeing a shot whilst working and having whomever do it again while I get my camera. This is simply a lobster being thrown into a tank after being banded. The afternoon light just happened to be perfect for the shot…
F/V No Worries – Matinicus Isle, Maine.
There are times when someone who has spent a lot of time on the water, will often offer to go fishing for the day for no pay, simply get back out there for a hot minute. The sea has soul-healing properties that can not be found anywhere else. Adam Roberson, tired of being on land, offered to come with us on this day to work for free, which allowed me a unique opportunity to shoot a full three-handed boat crew. Usually I’m one of the 3.
A rare day when the snow flakes were wet and fat enough, that they didn’t immediately get washed away. Jay Harrington was one of my favorite crewmen to photograph. He never posed for the camera or appeared to be uncomfortable when I had it shoved in his face. We were fishing, and the snow storm was pushing through. I looked up at Jay as the snow accumulated on his head. I threw off my gloves and grabbed my camera…
This is Friendship harbor, Maine during the deep freeze of 2014.
An image is all about perspective. In other words,where the subject is in relation to where I am. With the type of photos that I take, this perspective is what makes an image either dull and bland, or one that makes you take pause. From the boat I was standing on, it appeared as though Josh Ames and Nick Geatz were about to be swamped. And though this day was definitely a “dirty day” and very few lobstermen deemed it fit, the boys were in no particular danger at that moment. Or should I say that at that moment, they were in no more or no less danger than they were the rest of that day…
COILING THE WARPS
Stevie Ames coils rope. As a member of a multi- generational fishing family, coiling warps was probably one of the first things he learned as a child.
This is an image of gannets fighting for a mackerel that had escaped the net.
F/V Jeanne McCausland – Portsmouth, NH
On a particularly dirty day down below Matinicus Rock. Stevie Ames is setting a string back, throwing it well clear of the boat to avoid any snarl with other traps.
I was on David Ames’ dock on Matinicus, just talking with Dave and Darlene. I rarely go anywhere without my camera, and when I walked out onto his dock and saw this, I grabbed the shot.
During an abnormally high tide, combined with a nasty little northeast gale, the F/V Dirty Deeds, owned by Stevie Ames, broke it’s mooring and wound up on the rocks, where she was found at day break. I got the call from Stevie’s Uncle and we rallied the troops to help out.
From left to right.
Adam Roberson, Noah Ames, Dima Zaets, Dorian Ames, Stevie Ames
Foreground: The late, great, salty dog: Spartacus
SALTING FRESH HERRING
Jason Hooper of Spruce Head Island, Maine, salts fresh fish directly from the boat. This is one of the acts done by 1000s of lobstermen up and down the coast 1000s of times, but I have never seen an image of it.
Herring seining is one of the most physically demanding fisheries I’ve been involved in. Unlike with lobstering, there is no opportunity to grab my camera while we’re hauling the gear aboard. However, once we start pumping the fish, we get a brief respite in our duties. Here Adam Roberson has just gotten out of the twine and is covered in the fish and scales which are constantly raining down upon you.
F/V Western Wave – Rockland, Maine
Atlantic Porpoise playing in the bow wake on a beautiful summer day on George’s Bank.
We had just hauled a trawl and were steaming back up the set to set it back up. It was one of those evenings that the light was perfect between the setting sun and the deck lights.
RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME
Biscuit Ames shifts a string, just as he passes in front of the rising sun.
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SEE MORE: Joel’s Yankee feature photo essay: A Hard Life Made Beautiful
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