On New Years Day, 1971, The Black Dog Tavern opened its doors to the public. The owner, Captain Robert Douglas, sat at a table near the fireplace, his black dog curled up at his feet. From the front of the tavern overlooking the harbor, he could see his topsail schooner Shenandoah.
The Black Dog Tavern began as a place locals could go year ‘round for a good cup of coffee or chowder. In the years following, it grew into an island institution, and then expanded into a vast enterprise that extends way beyond our shores. But somehow, through all of this, it has managed to not lose sight of it’s humble beginnings. The tavern still stands, virtually unchanged from the day it opened. Captain Douglas is still at the wheel of Shenandoah, including the week-long cruises island fifth-graders embark on each year. There’s still a black dog, and the tavern is still the place to go for a good cup of coffee or chowder.
I’ve been hired many times over the years to photograph for various Black Dog publications, including their catalog and a cookbook. My job was to capture the spirit of The Black Dog – sailors and their ships, fellowship, history, a connection with the sea, a sense of place. These intangibles were far more important than any list of specific photos.
Much of The Black Dog’s aura and recognition has come from their logo, a simple silhouette of a black dog – the story goes that it was originally sketched on a napkin by a waitress in the 1970s. In all of the shoots I’ve done for them, that logo features prominently. For The Black Dog, their branding has created not just local but national recognition.
My relationship with The Black Dog has continued to the present. Lately I’ve been devoting my efforts to capturing life abord their tall ships Shenandoah and Alabama.