Fishing Vessel SKIPPER, January 2013

Antonia Small Collection
Gift of Antonia Small

The Lash Brothers of Friendship built SKIPPER in 1981, at the end of the wooden dragger building era. Here Gary Libby is cleaning her bottom on New Year’s Day 2013 in Port Clyde harbor. Small brilliantly captures a timeless scene. The vessel is tied to a dock, the tide drops out, the bottom is cleaned. The fisherman doesn’t need an expensive haulout or equipment. SKIPPER was then owned by Glen Libby, Gary’s brother, and is still in service today [2015] under her current Rhode Island owners. The Libbys are among the last of the Maine trawler fishermen.
This image is part of a series Small began in 2009. She continues to add to this body of work, taking her inspiration from the ground fishermen who, in an effort to save their fishery, came together to develop Port Clyde Fresh Catch, the world’s first Community Supported Fishery (CSF). During its inception, Small became a de facto witness to their work as they sought solutions to the overwhelming issues they faced.

Since the 1920s, ground fishermen have used nets (trawls) to catch fish such as cod and haddock. The evolution of massive trawlers, together with accurate fish finding electronics, has decimated a fishery already threatened in the days of sail by hook-and-line dory fishermen. These facts have made survival in this industry a struggle, and Fresh Catch is a creative adaptation. PMM is interested in supporting efforts to document today’s Maine waterfronts and the preservation of its maritime heritage; Small’s project resonates powerfully with the Museum’s mission.

A gift from the K2 Foundation of Port Clyde allowed the Museum to purchase a set of Antonia Small’s prints. Small begins her process using a large format black and white film camera, then digitizes the negatives, from which she makes archival digital prints. She provided a copy of the master image file necessary to make this enlargement of her work.

Artist Statement: Fishermen of Port Clyde
My work began on the wharf: fishermen off-loading catch, measuring, weighing, tallying quota under government surveillance. I then followed them to the processing plant where cleaning, cutting, packaging, freezing took place. Later, I began to include other fishermen of Port Clyde and their families; images of trap day on Monhegan, and details of the harbor. I got calls to see the SKIPPER hauled out for cleaning, crabs boiling on the coldest day, nets being mended, piglets being born, I invited myself to a burial at sea, went lobstering (to pay the groundfishing costs), and attended a wedding baptism.

Few sane people opt to do what these people do. You have to be a little crazy to cast off the dock lines in the middle of the night and head out into the watery unknown, with unpaid bills and beating hearts ashore, awaiting your success.

I am not a fisherman, nor a scientist, nor a journalist, nor a policy-maker. I am however, someone who loves sea-infused places and people. I wonder about the relationships people have with place. These images won’t teach you specifically how these men have adjusted to overfishing and environmental changes.

Antonia Small

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