Fishtown Local Gordon Baird

October 20, 2014

Here’s an interesting idea: what if you took all the boat owners and shoreside support in the Gloucester fishing industry and lumped them all into one big room at once? 

And if you could get them to stand still for a second, you could see the joy, pain, toil, tears, sweat and lifetime of work on their faces, one by one. 

But could you ever get them to not talk at once?

A fella named John [sic] Hooper has done just that. And for 14 weeks, they will be standing to address you at Cape Ann Museum in a remarkable portrait of the fishermen and women that pretty much make up the entire industry. 

Hooper has brought together almost every city skipper and a whole lot of crew workers into his studio to shoot them in working clothes with working attitudes against a common backdrop. His goal was clearly to give the rest of us an insight into their lives and outlook, as well as their pain and their happiness. After all, who has it better or worse than a fisherman at work? 

Each face registers that equation differently and — pure Glosta — colorfully.

Of course, they run from mostly people you know or have heard of — like Paul “Sasquatch” Cohan or Russell Sherman — to those that you might not have, like Richard Taylor or Bonnie Ackerly or Nino Sanfillipo. They are grouped in ones and twos, threes or fours, depending on the team and boat size. There are a bunch of them — at least 60 photos of at least 120 folks — and they all share “that look”. That’s the look of adventure and achievement, of turmoil and disappointment, of bravery and fear, of youth and of age. 

It’s a mind-opening exhibition, especially if you don’t spend that much time walking the docks. If you do, you’ll realize Hooper has captured their spirit and their bodies in an industry as old as the nation and as young as the crippling cuts that have reshaped it in the past decade. It is as new an attraction in the museum as the Fitz Hank Lane paintings are old.

Those paintings have anchored Cape Ann Museum from the beginning and they have never looked better. The museum’s recent renovations have enabled it to branch forwards and backwards simultaneously.

Link to the editorial here.

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