DISAPPEARING BEFORE OUR EYES
Stories from Grand Manan Island
by Peter Cunningham
On the evening of May 12, Trinity Galleries presented the debut of Peter Cunningham’s new book, DISAPPEARING BEFORE OUR EYES, Stories from Grand Manan Island.
Preview the book here:
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CBC Radio interview link: (copy and paste)
I’ve lived my entire adult life on two islands, Grand Manan and Manhattan, I love them both dearly.
The creation of this book has been a kind of mourning ritual in which I bear witness to a way of life that is ‘disappearing before my eyes’. I’ve tried several titles for the book, but when that phrase came to mind, it resonated and I wondered why. I soon realized it applied equally to both my home islands. Here in Manhattan the possibility of living an independent original life is also disappearing. This has been particularly true since the the World Trade Center tragedy in 2001 and is capped off by the cold realities reflected in the current American election. We have experienced an erosion of trust and a rejection of common values. We are modern Jonahs being “swallowed up in the belly of a beast”.
Here in the big city, the enormity of change is often too amorphous and borderless to perceive. The island that is Grand Manan is just large enough to sustain a real economy, yet it’s small and isolated enough so one can at least pretend to an understanding of the change that’s going on.This book poses as an ethnography but is really a metaphor, a way of viewing what is a core issue for all of us: the loss of individual independence, and the loss of what we used to claim as our highest values, freedom and liberty.
— Peter Cunningham, Greenwich Village, April 2017
GRAND MANAN is a Canadian island in The Bay of Fundy. It has a long and disputed history, but what’s known is that it’s still a land of big tides, wild winds, abundant lobsters, and independent-minded people.
MY FATHER came from Boston in the 1930’s to study fog, and I followed a decade later in my mother’s womb. In my time, I’ve witnessed Grand Manan evolve from a hunter/gatherer culture toward an industrial/corporate culture, I’ve seen the village store turn into a supermarket and the party-line telephone evolve into Facebook. For the artist-son of a atmospheric scientist, navigating in fog is a metaphor for being confident in a world that has lost its certainties.
THE PICTURES in this book were made in the time since we brought my father’s ashes to Fog Heaven: the weather station where he kept daily records and collected fog for 70 years. The Boston Globe, on its front page, called it the longest continuous scientific investigation by a single individual in the history of science.
THIS BOOK is about trusting ourselves enough to navigate in fog. It’s about becoming comfortable in a world in which one doesn’t know everything all the time or have an opinion on every subject; it’s about living without clear horizons and dwelling in the heart of not knowing... The book is dedicated to my father, whose nickname was “Fogseeker.”
Grand Manan was the last to feel the infiltration of modern culture. Whether it was because the first settlers were loyalists, fleeing the American Revolution, or that it’s the most distant from the large urban centers, or because it’s across the Canadian border, the fact remains that visible remnants of traditional localized fishing culture have persisted longer than on its sister islands to the South. On Grand Manan, catch from the sea is still paying the bills, so public investment goes into wharves instead of tourist accommodations.This book bears witness to an ongoing struggle to maintain self-reliant island individualism in the context of a nearly ubiquitous global economy.
Peter has been a professional photographer for over 30 years. His teachers include Baptist fisherman Lester Tate, dancer Martha Myers, French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Zen Master Bernie Glassman and singer-songwriter Janis Ian.Peter has exhibited his photographs and StillFilms in New York, Krakow, London, Paris, Tokyo, Jerusalem, Kigali, Nanjing, Beijing, Berlin and Grand Manan, Canada. His clients include singers, teachers, chefs, playwrights, athletes, accountants, actors, fishermen and clowns. He teaches “Photography as Zen Practice” in the US and China. is co-author with Peter Matthiessen of “Are You There Yet? A Zen Journey through Space and Time,” and is a founding member of “The Order of DisOrder”.
Photographic subjects include: Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Julio Iglesias, Robin Williams,Al Pacino, Mariah Carey, Richard Gere, The Knicks, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Little Shop of Horrors, and Radio City Music Hall.
Drop in to see this fascinating show, which runs until June 3. To purchase prints from the book, contact Trinity Galleries at email@example.com or 634-1611.