Dear Friends: Images From Maine #148 — Peter Ralston

Featured, Peter Ralston

By Peter Ralston

Last summer I was out on Vinalhaven in the course of one of our Raven trips when I spied this old propellor lying amidst all the other stuff that inevitably accumulates on working wharves.

I was instantly drawn to it…love at first sight. Perhaps it’s the patina that comes with oxidization, surely the dents, dings and holes have a lot to do with it, but all-in-all, I could feel the many years of hard use it had endured.

To me it’s a totem, or representation, of countless stories and incidents seen there in Carver’s Harbor on the great island. I was thinking such thoughts when I first picked it up and set it down on one of the big granite blocks that make up that old wharf at the head of the harbor.

I was instantly struck by my inadvertent composition of a still life that spoke directly to the island’s commercial heritage

The tired old retired wheel spoke to three centuries of serious fishing off the island and the granite evidenced almost two centuries of granite quarrying on Vinalhaven and surrounding islands.

The two visual elements worked metaphorically as readily as the two industries had managed to sustain Maine’s largest offshore island community for the many years.

I was very pleased by this latest instance of an image and a host of stories finding me and I made a few exposures…but then I was faced by a moral dilemma.

You see, I really loved this tired old prop and admit that I briefly considered just sticking in under my jacket and swiping it. But even though I knew that it was likely going to end up in the town dump, I could not bring myself to just taking it. So, taking the slightly higher road, I hid it in the weeds where no one would find it and reckoned that I’d find out who owned the wharf and see if I could strike some sort of deal whereby the propellor might find a new home ashore. I coveted it.

I asked a friend who owned a nearly adjacent (and wonderful) gallery who owned the wharf and she allowed that it was leased by Mike, a fellow I knew, if not well. I had gotten to know his late (and great) father, Bobby, over the years so I felt pretty comfy calling Mike and ‘fessing up to my desire for that beat up old wheel on his wharf. He was predictably surprised that anyone—even me—would find such appeal in it, but said that we could cut a deal allowing that it would be a “hard bargain.”

I could have the propellor but it would cost me three more prints of his late father, Bobby, who I had photographed out hauling a few years earlier.  When he died, I had made up a few prints and given them to his family as a token of my respect for him. Mike now wanted three more but I said no deal. Given that it’s a large family and everybody really loved Bobby, I countered that it be at least six or seven more prints. Thus, we had a “deal.” Here’s to you, Bobby, and to your family.

Bobby Philbrook hauling

Next trip across, I dug the propellor out of the weeds, brought it ashore, and I hope that you will see it here in the gallery someday. It’s titled Heritage.

Until then, be well and enjoy the season!



Ralston Gallery, 23 Central Street, Rockport, ME 04856

Instagram: @peterinmaine


Copyright 2023 Peter Ralston

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