Bad Photo. Great Story.

old man

I want to own this right up front: This is a terrible photograph. 

But even a bad photo, can tell a great story. 

I spent a couple of days this weekend travelling in Maine, looking for places I had not been to. A friend recommended Five Island Harbor in Georgetown, for sunrise, and so that’s where I was at 5am on Saturday. The place was empty, as a thin line of orange colored horizon of the otherwise dark sky. It would be 90 minutes before the sun arrived.

As the fishermen slowly arrived on the docks, one man caught my eye. He was significantly older than the rest, and although I have no idea how old he really is, my guess would be mid 70’s, or better. He climbed out of his truck and got straight to work - no time wasted here. 

I lingered around the dock trying to decide which shots I wanted of the sunrise, while the fishermen worked around me - all men in their 20’s and 30’s. Except for him. He had a metal hook that he would use to drag large containers of fish (bait) across the pier, to it’s edge, where it would be lowered to waiting boats below. 

He laughed and talked as he did, and at one point, as I was setting up a camera shot to his left, I said “Just let me know, sir, if I’m in your way, and I’ll move”. 

His response was sharp, but smiling: “Don’t worry sonny! I’LL LET YOU KNOW, ALRIGHT!!” - followed by a chuckle, as another heavy container slid across the pier. 

Perfectly New England, I thought. And he never stopped working. He wouldn’t either, until the last box of bait was on it’s way out to sea. 

His rubber boots looked older than I am, but that didn’t matter none. They worked. And so did he, probably every day of his life. The man was a machine. You could tell that’s all he knew - was work. Sometimes you can just tell a thing like that just from watching someone. This man has probably woken up before dawn for much of his life, and he wasn’t about to stop now. 

After all, to stop, would be to die - figuratively, of course. 

One by one, the loaded boats left the harbor with the bait he dragged to the piers edge. 

And me? I was setting up a shot to show the bait, along with the boats and the rising sun. I had no intention of taking a photograph of him. But on his last pull, without thinking, I quickly pulled the camera up shot this photo. He saw me take it, but never said a word. I had not time to adjust settings, I just pointed and shot- but I wanted to document what I saw to remind me of how being there felt. 

This was New England, through and through. 

From the pre-dawn quiet and the rising sun, to the coffee drinking fishermen, to the hard work they greet everyday with, right down to the smell of the bait - it’s been a way of life for many a generations. And though I’m not a betting man, I’d wager it’s all this man knew.

And he’s not about to stop soon. 

All I can say is God Bless that guy. I don’t know him and never will, but there on the dock that morning, I felt like I did. I bet he’d have some stories to tell over a beer - or coffee - or two. He’s salt of the earth. Guaranteed. 

So, it may not be a good photograph, but the moments I spent watching this weathered, hard working old man, are the moments that make being out with the camera worthwhile. This, in my own way, is my tribute to him. 


Greg Kretschmar

Greg Kretschmar

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