Vineyard seasons, colors, weather, houses, animals, birds, and boats — Moira Fitzgerald and Yann Meersseman have photographed them all, and plenty of other Vineyard subjects, for Vineyard Colors, a photo project they started in September 2010. The West Tisbury library will display 365 of their handsome and evocative images, in a two-floor exhibit, throughout the month of September.
The Oak Bluffs couple, who have been together for 10 years, began distributing newspapers to Island retail outlets in 2009 as a way to supplement the recession-battered income from their professional careers. Ms. Fitzgerald is an architect, and Mr. Meersseman, who is of French Belgian extraction, works as a computer consultant. Starting at 3:45 am, they deliver 16 different newspapers to 50 outlets in summer and 30 in winter. It takes them roughly three hours in-season, and two in winter.
In 2010, when friends visited from off-Island and Mr. Meersseman took them on an Island tour, he remarked how beautiful so many of the spots they were visiting looked at dawn. The friends suggested he take photos and email them. That’s how the Vineyard Colors project began.
From then on, the couple took photographs daily and emailed them to what started as a list of 20 family members and friends. The number quickly grew to 1,000, and then they began posting their photos on Facebook. “We’re hooked,” says Mr. Meersseman. Prints are sold at the Island Images gallery in Oak Bluffs and on notecards throughout the Island. The Vineyard Colors website carries 5,600 of the photos, and the couple expects purchases of prints in a variety of sizes will be available online starting this week. Realtors have liked their photographs enough that they have hired the couple to photograph real estate listings.
Neither Mr. Meersseman nor Ms. Fitzgerald has ever trained as a photographer. Mr. Meersseman said he had never picked up a camera before the project, although Ms. Fitzgerald has had darkroom experience. While they started with point-and-shoot pocket cameras, each now uses a Sony A77 digital camera, with wide-angle, telephoto, and regular lenses. One rule they have followed is to avoid including people in their images. With only a few kayakers and fishermen out at dawn, it’s not a hard rule to follow. One photo in the exhibit, however, includes the shadows of the two photographers.
“We rarely shoot in black and white,” Mr. Meersseman says. In the exhibit, only one photograph, of the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven, is in black and white. Landscapes range from Katama Bay to Pecoy Point Preserve, Nashaquita Pond, and Squibnocket Beach. Most –– but not all –– of the photos are horizontal, and they include shots of weather vanes, gargoyles from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, watering pails, flowers, a wagon, an ivy-covered VW, and even the reflection on a shiny auto bumper. All is fair game, and every image contributes to the record they are making of the Vineyard’s appeal.
The couple shoots several hundred photos each day. “That’s the secret,” Mr. Meersseman says. “The more pictures you take, the more chances you have there is a good one.”
“It’s always a challenge to get a good picture, especially in bad weather,” Ms. Fitzgerald says. “Things look different in different weather.” The library exhibit features one picture for each day of the year, although the year may vary. “As it’s evolved, I think you can see that we’ve gotten better,” Mr. Meersseman says. Three friends, Sue Hammerland, Brenda Hughes, and Jane McTeigue, acted as photo editors, sorting through the shots and selecting one for each day. “People like to look for the picture on their birthday,” West Tisbury library circulation assistant Jennifer Tseng says.
A Vineyard Colors book may be in the works soon. Mr. Meersseman says that one of the comments they have been getting is that the number of photos in the exhibit is a little overwhelming. “So, why not a book? It’s a good winter project,” Ms. Fitzgerald says.
Vineyard Colors: 365 Days, by Moira Fitzgerald and Yann Meersseman, will be on display at the West Tisbury library through September. The artists will speak at the West Tisbury Library on Thursday, September 25 at 5 pm. See westtisburylibrary.org for more information.