Gloucester Daily Times: Gift of 1M images leads to CAM's 'Above the Fold' Show

December 4, 2023

By Ethan Forman

With many of the photojournalists in the gallery whose cameras captured life on Cape Ann from 1973 to 2005, the Cape Ann Museum held a preview for its latest exhibition, “Above the Fold: The Photographers of the Gloucester Daily Times,” on Friday, before the show officially opened on Saturday.

The exhibition of 175 photographs, which runs through March 17 at the museum at 27 Pleasant St., traces the work of 15 photographers at the newspaper starting in 1973, which happened to be the city's 350th anniversary. It also traces the history of newspapers on Cape Ann, among other things.

The show takes in the latter work of the paper’s first full-time staff photographer, the late Charles “Charlie” Lowe, whose transformative photos for the paper were first featured in an exhibition at the museum in 2009.

The exhibition spotlights the photos of Jim Mahoney, Kenn Shrader, Mitch Eagan, Amy Sweeney, Cristin Gisler, present Times Photo Editor Paul Bilodeau, Josh Reynolds, Jackie Bennett and the late Sally O’Maley, who also reported on news in Essex.

The show winds up with photographers of the 2000s: Mary Roy, Jessica Murray and Mike Dean, the latter overseeing this paper’s transition from 35mm film to digital photography.

Work presented in the third-floor gallery also included that of stringer and part-time photographer Desi Smith and that of part-time photographer Bart Piscitello, who also worked in production for the Times.

“Above the Fold,” said Oliver Barker, the museum’s director, “as you are going to shortly learn from my colleague Trenton Carls (the museum’s head librarian and archivist) is a wonderful exhibition that had its beginnings in a gift, a very substantive gift that the museum received in 2021 from the Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., and its subsidiary, the North of Boston Media Group, which is the direct parent company of the Gloucester Daily Times.”

Barker asked the crowd to applaud the photographers and the journalists who were present “as it is their work, legacy, and their gift of documenting this community over four decades that we are all here to celebrate this evening.”

Barker thanked the staff of North of Media Group and the Times and singled out Carls for his tireless work since the beginning of the archival donation in 2021. Carls has worked on the exhibition and safeguarded the collection of more than 1 million images while ensuring they are publicly accessible. Barker said the exhibition was part of the museum’s commitment to elevate the gift “and the stories of the community and the individuals that this invaluable collection of images embodies.”

The exhibition is mirrored by a concurrent commitment which is independently funded to digitize these collections in the years ahead, Barker said, thanking the many colleagues, volunteers and supporters who made this work possible. Barker drew attention to Photo Archivist Maegan Squibb and Digital Library Assistant Catherine Miller who were instrumental to the exhibition.

Carls said the seed of the exhibition was planted a little over four years ago during his first days on the job in November 2019. It was a fun week until “a gentleman with a backwards baseball cap on and sunglasses on top of that and a camera around his neck walked into the library archives.” It was Bilodeau, who asked Carls: “Would you like our photographs?”

“I said ‘yes,’ of course.’” What Carls had not anticipated was that the donation would turn into an estimated 1 million photographs and his work spanning his entire four years at the museum.

“You’re welcome!” said Bilodeau from the crowd.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to report on the Gloucester Daily Times which has done an incredible job of reporting on this community for 135 years and we really, really could not be here without them,” Carls said. Carls credited Squibb for her work scanning tens of thousands of photos while working with the photographers who are part of the show.

Carls also thanked the many volunteers who worked on the show: Docent Paul Romary for helping to pack up the collection at the newspaper’s offices in 2021; former Times Photographer Allegra Boverman who helped save many of the photo negatives from being thrown out; John Christie; Stephanie Buck for her writing the history of Cape Ann newspapers from their inception through 1957; former Times Night Editor Jeff Pope who helped provide the history of the paper; and Paul Cary Goldberg for editing, cleaning up, printing and framing the photos.

Carls also individually thanked the individual photographers, many of whom were in attendance and helped with the exhibition, including Mahoney, Sweeney, Gisler (who shot the Perfect Storm), Piscitello, Bennett (who worked with Lowe), Bilodeau, O’Maley’s family members, Smith, Reynolds, Dean, Murray and Roy.

Carls noted the exhibition ends in 2005 with the end of physical media, 35mm film, CDs and memory cards. Carls said the museun has included in the show later pictures from staff photographers who came after this period — Kate Glass, Boverman, Mike Springer and Bilodeau.

“It began with Charlie Lowe,” Carls said, who in 1957 walked into the paper’s Whittemore Street offices, started taking photos, “and the community was changed ever since.” Carls pointed out that the evening coincided with the 42nd anniversary of Lowe’s death.

Squibb noted that the donation of this collection was the catalyst for bringing back the photo archivist position at the museum.

“So, without this donation, I might not have a job, so thank you, Paul,” Squibb said.

“Thank you for trusting us to tell your story,” Squibb said to the photographers in the gallery, becoming emotional as she did so. “I love you all.”

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