Photography is one of the, if not the, least compatible art forms for expressing dissidence. How can one criticize the CEO of PEN America or the poetaster laureate of Boston, for example, with a mere photograph? Well, perhaps one could do so if the target were sipping a cocktail at some expensive upper West Side New York City cocktail party. But a cartoon, poem, or essay would surely enable a hell of a lot more flexibility and input. In any case, it is not my goal as Monsieur P. Maudit, Editor of The American Dissident, to somehow work dissidence into my photography. Instead, I simply seek to somehow capture beauty, uniqueness, and/or oddity.
My best photos are really of humans, whom I like to capture by surprise and if possible near a sign or something to help mark the spot and add interest to the photo. And if I see a particular interesting spot, I just might hang around like a stalker waiting for an interesting human to pass into my pre-delineated spatial frame.
In this exhibit, however, most of the photos are not of people. Of the two or three photos that are, the best was of the three rugged fishermen wearing seemingly identical shirts in Port-aux-Basques. I noticed they seemed to be looking at me, while I was walking around the docks, so decided, hell, just to walk up to them. I’d just come on to the island so had all my Massachusetts baggage with me… of expecting unknown males to be macho-snarling. So, these guys took me by surprise with their amazing friendliness. We were like two different species of humans… more curious than hostile.
As mentioned, humans make up only a few of the photos and for good reason: humans are, after all, comparatively rare in Newfoundland and Labrador, the exhibit’s focus. While preparing the photos, I was often struck by a deep sense of nostalgia provoked by the immense beauty elicited by places visited, which perhaps my photos did not capture. In fact, when in Newfoundland and Labrador last month, I also felt here and there that nostalgia because It was my third visit. But the last time was about 15 years ago, and it is amazing what 15 years can do to the memory. Most of Newfoundland and Labrador really did seem different. A vague recollection and feeling of an elusive déjà vu would surface now and then: the Hotel Port-aux-Basques, the airplane-hanger school in Trepassey, the hairdresser’s in St-Anthony, the road up to Signal Hill in St-Johns, etc.
From my house on Cape Cod, it takes two full days of driving to reach the ferry in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, then another eight hours (11pm to 7am) on the ocean to finally reach Port-aux-Basques on the southwest of the island of Newfoundland. From there, it takes about two days to drive up and around to the southeast where Trepassey and the famed Avalon Peninsula. Of course, there’s so much to see on the way, so it takes much longer. From Port-aux-Basques to the northern town of St-Anthony it takes about 8 hours. Then it’s 1.5 hours on the straits of Belle-Isle in a ferry to reach the coast of Labrador. Then it’s about two hours down the Quebec side to the end of the road or two and a half hours up the Labrador side to the end of the paved road. For me, it’s all evidently worth it. I love Newfoundland and Labrador because, for one reason, the people are totally different from those in Massachusetts, where I dwell: they are amazingly friendly, un-offendable, the most friendly people by far I’ve ever bumped into. I also love the otherworldly scenery of vast expanses of tundra where the dead, silver dancing tuckamore, not to mention the isolated hamlets, old fishing sheds, and otherworldly isolated beaches of silvery driftwood and glacial boulders.
Finally, many thanks to barkeep Russell Streur for setting me out on the task of refining and choosing the best of the photos from my one-month solo adventure into the northlands.