This is what I would do if I had nothing else to do
In 2007 the Beaufort Fisheries menhaden processing plant in Beaufort, NC shut its doors for a final time. One day the plant was operating business as usual with a full land and sea crew. The next day the workers showed up and found the gates locked with no warning and no explanation.
I was approached to document the buildings before they were dismantled for future development. Over a three month period I photographed what was left of the buildings as they were dismantled around me. There was no power on at the plant. Most of the images were shot in black and white with a 4x5 field camera. Some were shot digitally. All were shot without power or light.
North Carolina's coast is a ribbon of barrier islands - thin strands of fragile sand stretching from Virginia to the South Carolina border. Few of these islands are undeveloped - subject only to the effects of wind and ocean currents. Most are inhabited and bear witness to the hand of man.
Those of us who live full time in these dynamic systems experience the ebb and flow of natural, human, and economic fluctuations. Landscapes and communities transform with the seasons as the weather changes and temporary residents come and go. The off season provides us the opportunity for physical, spiritual, and emotional renewal and allows us to prepare for the return of the peak season and that which comes with it.
In this body of work the existence of the human element in the landscape transcends the image from a mere representation of the splendor of nature to a metaphoric experience whose interpretation varies with the unique cultural, historical, and emotional foundations of each individual viewer.
The eastern portion of Carteret County is a forty mile narrow stretch of sand, low lands, and tidal marshes surrounded by saltwater creeks, bays and some of the nation’s largest estuaries. No fewer than ten small communities ranging from Bettie and Otway to Sea Level and Cedar Island are connected by thin ribbons of shoulderless highways and two lane bridges and water all around. For years these communities east of the North River Bridge on US Highway 70 lay isolated with the family boat being the only means of connecting neighboring towns and communities. Making a living from the water was the primary means of putting food on the table. Fishing defined these communities and their residents. The people who still live at the edge of these waters know the beauty and power of the ocean. It gave them life, gives them hope and makes them strong.
Other documentary projects on this area have focused on the decline of commercial fishing and the loss of cultural heritage. While it is true the heyday of commercial fishing has ended here, the residents of these tightly knit communities carry on with their lives, young and old. Some still commercial fish, others work off-island, and all still have dreams of the future. The Off Season – East of the Bridge explores the current state of the physical and cultural landscape in the eastern portion of Carteret County highlighting what is there today, not what was lost yesterday.