After practicing civil rights and environmental law for over twenty-five years, I have spent the last ten years photographing inhabitants of islands and coastal areas in Maine. These individuals live simply, and demonstrate dignity and tenacity when, by choice or lack of opportunity, they are forced to survive under either the harsh economics or isolation of island living, or an increasingly difficult traditional way of life. They reside in remote or isolated beauty, and maintain a direct connection with the natural environment, unlike most modern Americans.
For over fifty years, John Ryan, the subject of many of these images, has been a fisherman, apple picker and tree-pruner, logger and seaweed harvester. He is dependent on the State’s natural resources and ever-changing markets. As one natural resource becomes scarce, he must find another more abundant one to sustain himself. In his eightieth year, John found himself without a home and made his temporary quarters in a seasonal cabin on an organic farm where, by his own choice, he performed farm chores to pull his own weight. John’s life demonstrates, among other things, how far our society has come from the once organic, symbiotic relationship between human communities and our natural conditions.
While squarely in the documentary tradition, my purpose is to evoke emotions that may be unrelated to the underlying “facts” of the image. This is the poetry of photography: images that take you beyond the recognition of an object by creating a visual entrance into a universal truth.
– Jon Edwards