Friday, March 27, 2015

Two Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Shellfish)

Oyster week

Two Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Shellfish)

New Jersey held its limited six-day Atlantic Coast oyster-harvest season this week, on an eight-acre oyster bed called Fitney Bit, at the mouth of the Mullica River near the Great Bay.
I went out in a small boat with a biologist for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg for a story on the short season. We weren't even sure we'd find any fishermen as we set out from Port Republic. It was sunny, but very cold and windy. None of the baymen had been out the day before, and the biologist wasn't sure if anyone would be fishing on this day either. There was no way to check ahead of time, we just had to to out and look for ourselves, and hope we'd get lucky.

Heading out through some salt marshes toward the bay, it looked to me like open sea. All I could see ahead was water, and the skyline of Atlantic City on the horizon far off to the south. Hard to believe we would end up after about 15 minutes next to two fisherman scraping the bottom only eight feet below their workboat.

It was a unique photo experience. They were anchored over the oyster bed, so we had to approach them, and we couldn't get too close because of the wind, and our not wanting to interfere with their work. We certainly couldn't board their boat.

It was like hiking up a mountain to take a picture of an somebody inside an exhibit case. You walk around them, shoot with side, back and front light, then say "now what?"

I tried framing them with parts of our boat, shooting them really tight, crooked horizons, silhouettes, but it still felt as if I was photographing a display.

So Amy shouted questions and them, they shouted back, and the we would circle back toward them, only to drift away again.

In between, I'd shoot as they worked, trying to to make the photos appear intimate.

Then we left.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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