Island videographer captures Wasque’s erosion

File photo by Ralph Stewart

Filmgoers treated to a taste of “The Breach,” Kathy Rose’s new movie about Chappaquiddick’s Wasque Beach, at the eighth annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, will soon have a chance to watch it in entirety. This film about coastal erosion will have its first complete showing on Tuesday, October 15, at the Vineyard Haven Library.

Ms. Rose prefers not to call the 25-minute film –– her first –– a documentary. “I didn’t want it to be a traditional documentary,” she says. “I wanted it to be my witness to what’s happened at Wasque. That’s different. It’s more personal and direct.”

Wasque –– the name means “the end of the land” in Wampanoag –– has undergone serious damage since a 2007 storm ripped an opening in the barrier beach that connects Chappaquiddick and Katama at times. The breach at Norton’s Point radically changed the landscape of Wasque, a 200-acre nature preserve managed by the Trustees of Reservations that has delighted swimmers and fishermen for years. Rapid and continuing erosion after the breach has led to closure of the beach to swimming and boating.

“The thing that really got me was the storm,” says Ms. Rose. The long-time photographer and owner of the Wooden Tent was working as a guard at the Wasque Beach gatehouse at the time. “I just kept looking out,” she says. “It was just beautiful there. You can’t do that anymore.”

In 2009 she also was taking a class in video at Featherstone Center for the Arts. “I just kept shooting out at Wasque,” she says, and when Featherstone ran a contest on coastal change, she entered it and won. One storm followed another, slicing in half Wasque’s Deflation lot, and Hurricane Irene wiped out the swimming beach and the staircase to the fisherman’s beach.

More instruction followed later at MVTV. “The land became so different,” Ms. Rose says. “It went from a gentle curve to a point.” Ms. Rose interviewed Trustees Regional Director Chris Kennedy, and former Trustees Superintendent Dave Babson, among others. She found maps illustrating how the ocean was eating away at Wasque’s beaches.

A grant from Pathways Projects Institute last year enabled Ms. Rose to begin editing the footage she had collected. Working with Vineyard film editor Christopher Mara, she spent eight months shaping the film. A grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Visual Arts Foundation has since allowed her to begin distributing the film to libraries, public schools, and TV stations.

Now that “The Breach” is completed, Ms. Rose will devote full attention to her second film, “iDetroit – Tap into the City.” “This is going to be the good side of the city that only Detroiters see,” she says. Before moving to the Island in 1981 to run the Martha’s Vineyard School of Photography in North Tisbury, she lived in Detroit.

After studying photography with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Rose returned to Detroit to work as a dye transfer technician and teach photography at Henry Ford College and Wayne County Community College. She has already accumulated footage on farms, tap dancers, a canal, and a church with a gospel choir. Traveling every four months to Detroit over the past four years, she hopes to finish this film by 2014.

Since running her commercial darkroom and photography classes at the Wooden Tent in Tisbury, as well as teaching digital photography at Featherstone for 13 years, she switched allegiances from still photography to video. “I love it,” she says. “So many people can make their movies now. It’s a lot easier now.”

Film: “The Breach,” Tuesday, October 15, 7 pm, Vineyard Haven Public Library, Vineyard Haven. Admission free. For information, see