My to-do list

Towing the completed whatleboat to Mystic, early Thursday morning

by Sue Dawson

I MENTIONED TO ALISON that it’s already been over a month since her last blog entry, knowing that she’s way too busy to write one at this point. So I suggested that I just interview her about what she’s doing – kind of an inside view of her life as a photographer, entrepreneur, wife, mom, and, very busy person. Here’s what she said:

“Off the top of my head… I’m working on three books for Jan (Vineyard Stories publishing) – one’s for Morning Glory Farm, one’s for the Harbor View Hotel, and one’s a series of essays by summer Vineyarder Joan Bowman. Plus there are potential cookbooks in the wings – we’re just waiting for the go-ahead for those. For Morning Glory, I’m running around after tractors, coming home with my clothes covered with strawberry stains. That was from the “emergency” photo shoot of the last crop – I got a call yesterday that I had to drop everything and run right out to the fields. The last of the asparagus was already picked and in the bin, but there was just one more round of strawberry picking to be done, and they wanted me to be there to capture it. (I asked if she ate any, and she laughed – she snuck a few and they were amazing). The Joan Bowman book will mostly be up-Island locations and events that are summer memories for her. I’m really looking forward to it, because it’s putting a fresh spin on material that I’ve shot so many times, but I’ve so taken for granted, that in recent years I haven’t photographed it – for example, the sunset scene at Menemsha. And the Harbor View, I feel like my mission there is to capture the essence of this gorgeous hotel, primarily in summer, but acknowledging that it’s become a year-round institution as well. It’s really capturing the feel of what it’s like to be at a grand old hotel overlooking the lighthouse, dressed in your Edgartown reds, sipping a martini, after a couple rounds of tennis and a swim in the pool, and before heading to the harbor on a sunset cruise on the Harbor View’s classic yacht. It’s evoking a time gone by, but that’s still very much alive on the Vineyard.

The other stuff I’m juggling includes ongoing things for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. The current issue has a South Beach photo essay of mine. Coming up in the next issue will be portraits of Rose Styron, and blueberries for a cooking piece by Cathy Walthers. I also contributed to a major story about erosion on the Island for the August issue of the magazine (one of the photos appears on this week’s Gazette front page, below).

Patrick Phillips has been interviewing me for his magazine, MV Arts & Ideas. I think I’ll be in the next issue.

The whaleboat is now bound for Mystic, so I’ve been busy wrapping up that project. It’s a magazine assignment, but it’s also a personal project for me. Yesterday I got up at 4am to photograph the departure of the whaleboat, being towed by Nat Benjamin’s boat Charlotte, bound for Mystic and her home on the Charles W. Morgan. I’m planning to go to the launch of the Morgan if I can, in mid-July. I’ll be teaching in Maine that week, so I’ll already be off-Island.

And then I’m reviving what’s now a 14-year project of photographing artist’s studios. I’ve already shot in the studios of Traeger di Pietro and Don Mckillop, and in the next couple of weeks I’ll be shooting the studios of Elizabeth Taft, Dan Van Landingham, Leslie Baker, and Bill Mclean. I’d love suggestions for working studios of established artists – the messier the better!

I’ve also gotta write my blog. (laughs – we joked a lot about launching the new site with a blog, and that she’d have to WRITE the blog to HAVE a blog…).

One whole area of exploration is my return to black & white. I don’t think I’ve shown any new black & white images for ten years now. Most of my new images came from the dramatic storms on the Vineyard over the last six months. Many of them were published in the Gazette, so that got me thinking in black & white again. And that subject, the storms, really lent itself to black & white. It’s interesting – you go back eight years, and producing color prints was expensive. We sent images off-Island to printing companies, paid for priority Fedex both ways, back and forth. Black & white was easy – going in the darkroom and giving it a try. But today the tables have turned. Producing color is something we do in-house, and black & white requires working with off-Island fine art printers. No one on the Island does traditional silver gelatin prints that I know of, at the scale I want to do. All to achieve the look and quality I once did myself.

The other major thing is planning this summer’s shows, including the opening receptions at our gallery. (The first upcoming show, at the Granary Gallery, opens on July 7th. The next is the July Stroll in the Arts District, which is July 13th.)

And I keep up with the recycling and the dump runs (she always seems to toss this in). Oh, and did I mention raising two teenagers?

Those are the main things. And trying to go for occasional walks, and sitting down for a coffee with you.”

So that’s all. We also have the family and house-related errands and appointments most everyone has. Jan Pogue wrote a lovely blog the other day about living on the Vineyard. It’s worth the read. I’m mentioning it because you may not recognize that the friend she refers to (about halfway through) is Alison. It’s a rat race in the summer, and very different from her time as a summer kid. But it’s still worth the race.

14 Responses

  1. Pam Coblyn says:

    Ashley Medowsky’s Saltwater Gallery on Lambert’s Cove Road is magical and would be wonderful to photograph. It’s based in her grandfather’s fishing shack and she’s fixed it up like nothing else you’ve seen. Lots of found objects are in unexpected places!

  2. Maureen Topping says:

    I am so happy to hear about the return to black and white. I have Squibnocket and Harthaven posters framed in my home (plus the color print Jetty at Sunset) and am enamoured of them. Thank Alison.

  3. Alison, you and Sue remind us through this post of what we always loved about the vineyard. Of everything, your Gazette photos were always the highlight of the week. We’ve missed your black & whites, whether in the paper or on gallery walls. Glad they’ll be coming back, and certainly your documenting the erosion will be a great service to us all.

  4. Debbie Phillips says:

    Nice teamwork, you two!! Great post. xo

  5. Cynthia Bloomquist says:

    Jules Worthington’s studio and home (which he designed and built himself – his largest work of art)/ gallery are great. Inspirational view towards the Elizabeth Islands, too.

  6. Ann Densmore says:

    I love your photography, Alison! I admire your tenacity and positive approach to life! I’m a great fan!

  7. Dorothy Wass says:

    I can’t keep up with your schedule but we are so lucky to have you as neighbors. I have forwarded this to “off-island” friends who hope to attend one of the “Arts District Strolls.”

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