Anglers Journal - - FIRST LIGHT - — Krista Karlson

Jeff Dworsky, who took the pho­tos in this story, moved to Ston­ing­ton, Maine, in 1973 when he was 17 years old. The place was ev­ery­thing his child­hood home wasn’t: ru­ral, work­ing-class, gritty. He fit in more than he ever had in Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, where his mother was a pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Univer­sity.

At the time, Ston­ing­ton was a sep­a­rate world. The sin­gle bridge to Deer Isle, where the town is lo­cated, didn’t see much traf­fic. Dworsky, who dropped out of school at

14, was an out­sider. But he made friends quickly and gained the trust of many of the town’s roughly 900 res­i­dents. They were mostly fish­er­men, who lob­stered, crabbed, scal­loped, shrimped and fished for hal­ibut and her­ring in the cold At­lantic. Fish­ing had al­ways been the busi­ness in Ston­ing­ton, be­gin­ning thou­sands of years ago with the Abe­naki peo­ple. The town’s gran­ite quarry boom at the turn of the 20th cen­tury came and went, but fish­ing re­mained.

In 1989, hav­ing lived in Ston­ing­ton for more than a decade, Dworsky picked up his Le­ica cam­era loaded with Ko­dachrome 64 slide film and started pho­tograph­ing through a wide-an­gle lens the place he held dear. He wanted to doc­u­ment a way of life that he feared was van­ish­ing with the real es­tate boom of the 1980s, which brought wealthy out­siders to the is­land. “I saw the Ston­ing­ton I loved dis­ap­pear­ing,” he told me when we met in Belfast, Maine, this past fall.

Prop­erty val­ues were in­creas­ing, foot­paths through back­yards were be­ing cut off, and com­mu­nal wells were dis­ap­pear­ing. Sud­denly there were ar­eas des­ig­nated “work­ing water­front.” What does that even mean? Dworsky thought. It all used to be work­ing water­front.

Dworsky, who fished for 40 years and owned what he says was the slow­est boat in town, pho­tographed peo­ple whose trust he had gained over time. “The closer you get, the more you dis­ap­pear,” he says. He knows the name of ev­ery per­son in his col­lec­tion of 1,500-plus slides, now housed at Penob­scot Ma­rine Mu­seum in Sear­sport. None of his images was staged.

Now 63, Dworsky has an un­kempt beard and bushy eye­brows that dance with his smile. He’d al­ways been drawn to pho­tog­ra­phy but never stud­ied it for­mally. He re­mem­bers flip­ping through the pages of

Na­tional Geo­graphic as a young man, look­ing for in­sights into fill flash, depth of field and other tech­niques.

Dworsky’s images, taken be­tween 1989 and 1993, cap­tured a world where mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions of fish­er­men earned a liv­ing by go­ing to sea in small boats, in all sea­sons and all weather. It was a world where com­mu­nity wasn’t a buzz­word or a plat­i­tude, but the very fab­ric of life.

Mcguffie and his grand­son head out on a glassy morn­ing to pull traps. The epit­ome of in­de­pen­dence, the old Yan­kee hunted and farmed, cut wood to heat his house and pulled a liv­ing from the sea.

Be­fore sum­mer peo­ple be­gan buy­ing up the shore­front, fish­ing fam­i­lies lived as close to the sea as pos­si­ble.

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