Earlier this week, WBUR featured a poignant story on Dedham-based photographer Jim Hooper’s portrait project of the faces of Gloucester’s working waterfront. The title of the project sets its tone: “Not A Funeral: Portraits of Gloucester’s Working Waterfront.” It sends a strong message that the fishing industry, although suffering, is not giving up hope that this current crisis will pass. Noting that he “didn’t set out to make pretty portraits,” Hooper accurately captures multiple generations of fishermen (and women) from America’s oldest seaport. The images are raw and telling, many of them taken as the fishermen were stepping off their boats after a hard day’s work.
When he initially approached industry members expressing interest in his desire to shoot this project, Hooper was met with some resistance. “We have no interest in letting you preside over a funeral” they said. Hooper explained his motives lie in the opposite direction: to celebrate the industry in its current state and pay homage to the faces that are currently struggling to carve out a living on our local seas.
Working under extreme and controversial regulatory restrictions, the shell of the fishing industry that remains active is fighting an uphill battle. However, as this article and portrait project so gracefully illustrates, they are a strong group with a deep history and firm roots, and they’re not going anywhere soon. You can hear the passion and commitment in the voices of fishermen providing narrative accounts, which is also included with this article. It’s well worth a listen.