My photo blog… visual thoughts around me.

” A Living History Lesson “

” Final Catch “

The pace of the world can be a challenging place to even the most progressive of cultures. A place that will never catch up, to the world around it, is Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Not only has the so called outside world failed to overshadow this place, but it is also where its residents don’t care what other people think of their way of life, which is to continue on as in the past.

The island has its own rhythm and the residents have a “outer banks brogue”, which I liken to the accent I have heard in many of the outlying fishing villages on Maine’s coast. The sad part for me was knowing that this island community is dying. With many of its full-time residents being over 50 years old, the younger inhabitants are leaving the island culture and not returning.  What impressed me the most was the hospitality of just about everyone I met on the island, from the captain of the ferry who brought us from Crisfield, MD to Tom Horton a local writer whose home I stayed in.

The “watermen”, as the local crab fishermen are called, were unwavering in their daily ritual of trawling for crabs. I watched as a very adept but weathered septuagenarian plied his trade by dragging, and then pulling up by hand, a sea rake that entangled the crabs. Talk about back-breaking work, which is the norm around the island for both young and old, as they very rarely miss a day of work. The salt marshes seemed endless around the outer island but our guide and host Tom, easily navigated our group from Tylerton to Ewel which are the two biggest villages in this area. Tylerton, the smaller of the two, is where I stayed, was separated by an inlet from the bigger island. This separation from the mainland way of life gave me the perspective I needed to photograph this vanishing culture. The isolation permeated my vision, as the fast pace of my daily life was now acted out in slow motion, punctuated by the click of my shutter.

While dinning on crab cakes, soft shelled crabs and their famous 8 layer cake can hardly be called roughing it, you can not escape the feeling that you are witnessing history in its most unescapable form… documenting a way of life that may not be seen again,  but will forever be written and read about.


14 responses

  1. Bro, you are blessed to have seen this place, to meet its people, to experience history and get to write about it. The images are beautiful, serene, pure. I did felt sad when you wrote, “documenting a way of life that may not be seen again, but will forever be written and read about.” I hope the children of the villagers would one day go back and continue the priceless legacy of their ancestors.


    August 12, 2012 at 1:15 am

  2. I can never say it enough Mike, your pictures are heavenly, deliriously beautiful.. wooww!! 😀


    August 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm

  3. This is a beautiful post, Mike, and it makes me eager to add this to the places I’d like to visit, too. You have a wonderful eye for composition, and you really are able to transport me there. I tried not to mention favorites, but failed . . . 11 and 16, and with the help of the weather gods, also 7 and 8. Lovely work.


    August 10, 2012 at 11:50 pm

  4. The story mirrors many fishing communities in Scotland, and probably the world. It’s such a physically tough job, dangerous, and financially unrewarding, that it’s no surprise the younger generations are looking elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s also the heart of the community that is being lost.

    You’ve done a great job capturing the sense of being isolated.


    August 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm

  5. Great photo with amazing lighting. Your description of this island reminds me of the outlying areas, we also have here in little Denmark – having the same problems – and beauty. I myself was born in the far western Jutland (only a few kilometers from the North Sea). But I still often come back there. And have also just visited the area this summer.


    August 9, 2012 at 4:29 pm

  6. Really stunning photographs.


    August 7, 2012 at 6:10 am

  7. Fantastic photo Mike. Thanks for sharing


    August 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

  8. denisebushphoto

    Great images and light Mike. ‘Final Catch’, the Anhingas and last 2 scenes with great clouds are favorites. Nice back story too.


    August 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm

  9. As always, fantastic shots. Other than that, I love the story going with them. There’s such a rich history there. Too bad that way of life seems to be fading away. I’m glad you got to experience it though 🙂


    August 5, 2012 at 11:49 am

  10. Beautiful, sensitive image… And thanks so much for sharing their story. It’s heartbreaking to think that the island’s culture and way of life is disappearing — but with people like you to capture the people who work in this lovely, wonderful world, perhaps it will be saved in a sense.


    August 5, 2012 at 9:42 am

  11. Mike, you captured some awesome images of Smith Island which helped to give its place in the history of the Chesapeake. I worked on the National Geographic special on the Chesapeake that WQED produced in the late 80s so I am very familiar with the story of Smith Island. Your images conveyed the loneliness of the island and the determination of the individuals who still call it home — the hands of the older fisherman, the boat , “Scotty Boy” coming into shore with the proud fisherman and his catch — all conveyed to me the disappearance of what once was a thriving industry. Now I will treasure my Mrs. Smith’s cookbook all the more. Thanks for documenting life on Smith Island in 2012.


    August 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

  12. Pat

    Beautifully photographed and well written post about this fascinating way of life.


    August 5, 2012 at 7:56 am

  13. Nice piece on Smith Island and what you experienced there. Your images complement your story exceptionally well. Great captures Mike!


    August 5, 2012 at 7:13 am

  14. Kathleen

    Mike what a great story and awesome pictures. Thanks for sharing this history of Smith Island.


    August 5, 2012 at 6:01 am

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