Galleries : From The America's Cup To Main Street
Louisa Gould opens her newly published book, "Wooden Boats of Martha's Vineyard" (Flat Hammock Press, 2008, 64 pages, $20) and points to a small photograph at the bottom of page 32, a crisp close-up image of the stern of a sailboat in black water, with the name "Hope" clearly lettered on the hull. "People come into the gallery and say 'I have the Hope picture,' and I say, "I don't want to hear it, I'm going to cry,'" Ms. Gould responds, confessing that it moves her to know her photos affect people. "That is the essence of what photography can be and is for me. It can change someone's life, and that's wonderful."
Ms. Gould's ability to capture the beauty and agility of wooden boats is the result of a lifelong devotion to sailing. "Sailing wooden boats here is in my blood," she says, noting that her parents first met sailing in the Edgartown Regatta. Ms. Gould recalls early Vineyard summers when she sailed with her family every Sunday after church.
At first, she was hesitant to pursue her passions in art and sailing as a profession. "Anything I push too hard to do, I lose the enjoyment," she says. "I didn't want that to happen with art or with sailboat racing."
So she chose a major in political science and Chinese and soon established a career on Wall Street, though she continued to take art classes and sail regularly.
"If I wasn't in my office, I was probably in a regatta somewhere," she says, laughing. "It got to the point when my day job was getting in the way of my racing."
Ms. Gould's career path changed abruptly when she was offered the opportunity to participate in the America's Cup of 2000. She recalls quitting her job and moving to New Zealand: "I knew this wasn't going to happen again in my lifetime."
After her team was eliminated, she began to capture the race with her camera. Ms. Gould then traveled and photographed around the South Pacific, although it wasn't until 9/11, without Wall Street to return to, that she considered taking her new hobby seriously.
Ms. Gould decided to publish the book as a means to showcase her body of work that has amassed over the past six years. The book succeeds in displaying many pictures, although the small images and occasional interlocking frames do not always do justice to the images themselves.
"I try to capture the beauty, heart and soul of the wooden boat," she explains. "It sounds cliché, but wooden boats are particularly beautiful and when the boats are built here and they are christened, it's like you're welcoming a member of the family, a part of the community."
Like the Hope photograph, quite a few of Ms. Gould's photographs capture wooden boats in their most serene moments: docked at the harbor or anchored at sea. She highlights the craftsmanship that defines wooden boats. But more often, her photographs are characterized by action.
"I love a great action shot," she admits. "You want to be able to look at an image and have an immediate response to knowing what that's like, the adrenaline that's involved."
"Sailing the Sound," captures a distinct moment onboard the 65-foot schooner "Juno," when the camera lens meets several shadows on deck as the boat converges with a crashing wave.
"Heading Down the Sound" depicts the 1939, 63-foot yacht "When and If" tilting to the right into the ocean as a passenger grounds himself against the gradient, casually grinning at the camera behind him.
Currently, the artist travels off-season shooting high-profile races, then showcases her work and the work of others in the Louisa Gould Gallery, the Vineyard Haven gallery she opened in 2007,
Her experience both in the corporate world and as an artist has allowed her to form a unique relationship with those she represents. "On Wall Street I vowed if I ever own my own company, I am going to treat people the way they want to be treated," she says, adding, "I am not a born salesperson, but I can sell something if I believe in it, and I believe in my artists as people."
Samantha McCoy is a student at Cornell University, and a regular contributor on art to The Times.