I’ve been surrounded by water much of my life. When I took this job I had been a sailor of tall ships, with many sea-miles traveled on many a long voyage. But being the winter caretaker has offered me something special; the chance to experience these small, rugged isles over the span of many years, in a rare solitude that I find essential to connecting deeply with a place.
I’m a photographer, but I am equally an appreciator; I soak up the moments here …and then because I cannot hope to contain all that they have given me, it spills out into my traditionally-made darkroom photographs, into song-lyrics and music, into my journals and poems. Apparently there’s too much inspiration here for one medium!
© 2016 Alexandra de Steiguer
My caretaker’s house on Star Island looks across a small stretch of water toward Appledore Island, another of the Isles of Shoals that’s steeped in history. I think often of the artists that, over a century ago, visited the poet Celia Thaxter during the summer months. Sometimes I read one or two of their poems aloud into the empty house and let the gale winds add their haunting melody to the reading. Sometimes I flip slowly through a book of Childe Hassam’s paintings of Appledore Island, and imagine him walking the paths and scrambling across ledges to once again set up his easel on the rocks. I think, too, of the rugged fishing community that carved out a living on this far shore almost four centuries ago. Perhaps it’s because I’m the only person here, but in winter – without the distraction of modern visitors – I can sense the potent presence of history along every corridor and down every island trail.
The vastness of sea and sky, and the gift of its humbling perspective; the wind-worn, yet time-enduring presence of our dwellings here; and the ephemeral but deeply connected nature of life within this place… these are the inspirations for my work as an artist.& And, like those that came before and will come again, I am deeply moved by these small and rocky islands in the sea.
Alexandra de Steiguer is a two time Artist Fellow of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, her work has been exhibited in galleries throughout New England, and is in the permanent collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. She creates her images using film and traditional darkroom methods. Her work is featured in the exhibition American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals, co-organized with the North Carolina Museum of Art, in cooperation with the Shoals Marine Laboratory.
Editor’s Note: A photo essay by Alexandra de Steiguer appears in the exhibition catalogue American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals. Available exclusively through PEM Shop, the limited, hardbound edition in a handcrafted slipcase includes a high-quality Alexandra de Steiguer print reproduction. This special edition is available for pre-order through the PEM Shop and will be online at pemshop.com in the coming month.