Portfolio: Shipyard Archeology

Some of these images made their debut at Whitney Art Works in Greenport NY in June of 2000. A more complete version opened at Art Space 150 in Burlington VT in June of 2002. They are the only art on permanant display (in smaller format) at the Greenporter Hotel and Spa in Greenport, NY. (Wendy Evans Joseph, Architect) 

I took these photographs from June 1999 to July, 2001, in Greenport, a small town on the end of the north fork of Long Island, NY. Greenport is an old whaling port as well as the site of a shipping industry that waned after its large role in W.W.II. Ship life is still active there. Sailboats, motor boats, ferries, fishing boats, freighters and Tall Ships cover the water as long as the weather allows.

The Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding Company sits on the bay, tucked away just behind the vibrant and modestly upscale center of this tourist town. The beauty of the shipyard is complex and fascinating. The details I focus on show the effects of time and weather on the human made objects and the landscape that surrounds them. The industrial objects I was shooting were becoming more beautiful as they were exposed to the elements. As the usefulness of each thing leaked out, as the object evolved, or devolved from its state of creation, it became more of an artifact , more purely form. This process is exaggerated by the abstract vision of my pictures. 

The objects tell stories. Beyond the biological story of rust, corrosion, and oxidation, is the human story. Industrial practices change. What we need and how we buy and sell has an impact on the life of a town. Prohibition is over and there are no more rum runners. We no longer need whale oil. Gasoline tankers mercifully do not stop on the peconic bay. Nor do war ships. 

Many things made of wood, steel and glass that were once state of the art are now outstripped by microchips and polymers. Nevertheless, fishingpeople still haul their catches in wooden boats, the little ferries still chug across the bay, tankers haul their cargo. Welders weld, painters paint, machinists fix the cogs and wheels.

Ships that are showing the signs of age come in for a rehab and the process reverses. Old layers of paint are stripped off, corrosions are blasted and smoothed, metals are burnished. New paint goes on, new cogs and wheels are attached. Boats roll down back to the sea.
Because the Greenport Shipyard is very much alive, these are not really part of the genre of Modern Ruins, but I feel a great affinity for that genre. Some of the impulses to climb around semi dangerous places, and to find beauty in decay are present in my work as well as those who document Modern Ruins.

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  • Zinc

    A Zinc, as I understand it, is a piece of actual zinc bolted to the hull of a ship to prevent the buildup of electrolites. The blue is the paint on the ship, with a patch (the black part) scraped off to reveal the raw underside of the hull.

  • Strong Arm

    One day a rolling cabinet appeared outdoors, filled with these iron objects which reminded me of rusty swiss cheese. I was told that they were called strongarms, and are used to take off propellers. I never saw them again after that afternoon.)

  • through the window

    View through a window of a building which no longer exists. The ship, Miss Nancy, is in the distance.

  • Icy Handle

    A cold winter morning at the shipyard

  • BR

    This boat was being scraped down for a repaint. Except for the bit of red paint at the lower left, it could be a black and white image. Its not.

  • No. 29

    I was constantly surprised by the colors I found in the shipyard. This blue machine was catching the rays of the morning sun through the dusty window when I photographed it.

  • Hull Lines

    More beautiful blues

  • Blue Rudder

    I was in love with this ship, the Cher Paulo. which had sat in drydock for two years. One day I was in a boating supply store in Greenport showing the owners some of my photos. They told me that the owner of the Cher Paulo was over there at the far end of the store. I showed him this picture, asked him if he knew what it was. He had no idea what it was, much less that it was from his boat.

  • L. Power

    In the machine shop at the Greenport Shipyard. Again, I have no idea what this machine does. I love its rusty texture and the complimentary circles. The text fragment reads, "L. POWER"