ANNUAL EXHIBITION 2017
Photographers Of Fishers Island, Part One
Curated by HLFM director Pierce Rafferty
The 2017 exhibition celebrated the first photographers of Fishers Island. Some were professionals, some amateurs, but together they provide a multifaceted portrait of island life and a clear reflection of yesteryear’s landscapes, beachscapes and architecture.
Woman photographing dog on barrel, South Beach, Fishers Island, N.Y.
c.1913. Photograph by Brown & Dawson, Stamford, Conn. Museum Collection. Donated by Harry & Susie Ferguson
The Brown & Dawson studio was hired by the Fergusons, primary owners of Fishers Island, to take many of the photographs used in their promotional brochures in the mid-1910s. Unfortunately, no record exists of the name of the woman photographer pictured at left.
Please note the safety “surf line” in center back-ground that stretched from wooden posts on shore to the shallows to help stabilize bathers as they entered the surf, an amenity that disappeared more than a century ago.
The earliest photographs on display date from the 1880s and 1890s with one exception, an outlier from 1846 that shows the Steamer Atlantic wrecked below North Hill (see below). The relatively late dates for almost all of our “early” photographs are not surprising when you consider that Fishers Island was a private working farm until the mid-1870s. Photographers would have had a difficult time gaining access.
Drawing copied from daguerreotype showing wreck of the Steamer Atlantic, North Hill, Fishers Island, N.Y.
Originally published in the New York Herald December 10, 1846
Republished in The Lookout, September 1927 issue by the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York.
Museum Collection. Donated by Harry & Susie Ferguson
This reproduction reveals the existence of an outlier photograph that precedes by more that three
decades the next known photograph taken on Fishers Island. Unfortunately, the original daguerreotype that was taken by E. Williams Pratt has not been located despite sustained research efforts.
Mr. Pratt, whose studio was on Bank Street in New London, advertised that his view of the wrecked Atlantic was “taken at Fisher’s Island, the real scene, and not from a painted picture. It is therefore more accurate than any sketch can be.” Given his stated aversion to artistic renditions, it is quite ironic that a sketch drawn from his “real scene” daguerreotype is all that is known to exist of his Atlantic image today.