A lobster boat is a thing of curiosity to many people who don’t live here, a symbol of Maine itself, but most painters, photographers and artists don’t get an up close look at the people who pilot them, which is where this story begins.
Abe Goodale, 32, wanted to explore the idea of preserving the images of old-time lobstermen. He wanted to head out on the water to capture a way of life in a way that both reflected and respected the individuals he was portraying.
Born in Montville and a lifelong Mainer himself, he had a basic concept of what the daily routine on the water was. Up before the sun every morning, steaming out to their fishing grounds and working a grinding day of sometimes up to 12 hours, lobstermen are focused and busy with the task at hand.
Goodale established a few introductions through mutual friends. Other times, he’d begin a conversation and ask if he could join them on the water as a way to gain reference photos for a project and to help along the way.
“Engaging with people before I photograph or paint them is very important to me,” he said. “I want to develop a relationship and gain a level of respect before I pull out my camera. When I first asked if I could go fishing with these guys, the common response was ‘Yeah, as long as you stay out of the way and don’t get hurt.’ I get this; this is their livelihood and they work really, really hard for what they do. As these guys moved through their days, they were kind and willing to talk me through their process and include me in the day’s work.”
After guiding for The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and most recently completing an 18-month culturally based art project through the Andes of South America, Goodale came back to Maine two years ago, wanting to immerse himself in a project uniquely Maine.
Goodale’s watercolors are so finely etched, they resemble photographs from afar, but up close the muted colors are reserved. Very rarely do any of the lobstermen look directly into the camera; therefore most of his watercolors show them engaged in their work. In one watercolor, a man clenches his fists.
“That was a cold day in September,” recalled Goodale. “I was looking out of the cabin as he pulled his hands from a cold bin of water, he stood up, clenched his fists and looked aft across the bay.”
“To me this project is a tribute to the hard working individuals who make their living in Maine. It’s the salt and grit that drew me to them and it was an opportunity for me to honor the people who contribute a great deal to the Maine experience. Specifically, I was drawn to the older generation of lobstermen. These guys have been fishing alongside each other for 50-60 years. This is a way of life and I wanted to capture a glimpse of it.”
Goodale is currently working on a larger body of watercolors based on the extensive amount of reference photographs he took.
His framed watercolors and postcards can be found from Kennebunk to Bar Harbor and locally at Archipelago, Small Wonder Gallery, Once a Tree and at the Red Barn Marketplace in Lincolnville. For more information visit abegoodale.tumblr.com
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com