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  • In 1983 a handful of us in Rockland, Maine, started the Island Institute a non-profit organization dedicated to helping sustain the communities of Maine's year-round islands. We knew that the islands were extraordinarily fertile grounds for storytelling and in 1984, thanks to very sound advice from Betsy Wyeth, we started publishing Island Journal, an annual melange of art and science, storytelling and reporting. More than a magazine, yet not quite a book, the Journal very quickly caught on and played a major role in the growing success and viability of the Institute and our mission.

    This story is simply a folio that appears in the 2013 Journal. Each portrait has quite a story behind it, but for the Journal folio I, with difficulty, restrained myself and accompanied each image with a very brief descriptor.

    I dedicate this to the people you'll see - and so many others - who over the years have allowed this from-away, off-island nuisance into their homes, boats, wharves and, in more than a few cases, into their hearts. Thank you, thank you all.

    Preceding image: Mabel and Sanford Doughty of Chebeague welcomed me into their home with bedrock grace and warmth.

    (This is a 27 page folio)
  • His Common Touch by Philip Conkling

    Peter Ralston is a brilliant photographer who is also one the most engaging conversationalists you ever want to meet. It is almost impossible to dislike the man and he has never met a person he did not instantly consider a friend, with the possible exception of a few pompous authority figures.

    As his annotated images demonstrate, Ralston has talked his way into the homes and hearts of countless islanders from all walks of life; a skill as natural as breathing to him, and one which has enabled him access to day to day life as few others have been privileged to see. Andrew Wyeth, Ralston’s neighbor and mentor, once said of him, “Peter thinks with his lungs.” But it is the gift of his tongue that provides the opportunity for his eye to capture the true but fleeting sense of our inner selves.

    For the past 30 years, Island Journal has served as a regular vehicle for Ralston’s prodigious photographic virtuosity. He has produced most of the iconic island images of the past generation, from breathtaking landscapes to scenes of the daily grit of fishermen and their families. The images in this folio, selected from a lifetime of work, most of which have not been previously published, reveal the grace and dignity of his island subjects with his common touch.

    Following image: Betsy Wyeth “gave” us Allen Island, a blank canvas upon which we sketched out many of the ideas that became the Island Institute.
  • Following image: Frenchboro's David Lunt was one of the very first community leaders to reach out to us when we started the Institute, and thirty years later we are all still good friends.
  • Hoddy and Wooly Hildreth of Vinalhaven radiate a sensibility that has quietly infused these islands - and our state - for decades.
  • Lil & Chuddy Alley of Islesford, as warm, sunny and welcoming as their garden that day.
  • I caught Polly and John Guth nuzzling under the apple tree in the clover of Sutton Island.
  • John Gillis, acclaimed writer, island historian and handyman on Great Gott Island.

    (this one's a vertical, so scroll down)
  • Isabelle Osgood’s husband had died at home on Vinalhaven the week before we met. We only had a couple of hours together, but I immediately fell in love with her grace and beauty.

    (See a lengthier Cowbird story I have already written about the day Isabelle and I met.)
  • On Monhegan a few years back, Jess Stevens and Mattie Thomson’s family was growing.
  • Phil Dyer of Vinalhaven, from a long island line, is a proud builder of rugged wooden boats.
  • Foy Brown’s family’s 125-year-old boatyard is the go-to place for all manner of things on North Haven’s waterfront.
  • Pearl “Honk” Billings of Stonington held forth that morning, musing on all manner of things.
  • Kole Lord and Jeff Rollins, ready to go on Monhegan’s Trap Day, one of the coast’s great enduring traditions.

    (this one's a vertical, so scroll down)
  • This folio, as well as a first collaboration between Cowbird's exalted Ben Weinberg and myself (and numerous other really wonderful stories), appears in the brand new 2013 Island Journal).

    If you would like to purchase a signed/inscribed copy of this volume, please drop me a line at The total cost is $25.00 U.S. including shipping/handling. Please send instructions about how you would like it signed (or not) or inscribed, your credit card info (we also accept checks), and your best shipping address.

    If you enjoyed this small folio, you might want to have a look at my other Island Journal story, titled "Covers," in which I show all the covers from the 30 years we've been publishing the Journal.

    Lastly, this is a perfect time to (again) thank Jonathan, Annie and Dave for making multi-page stories possible on Cowbird...I love this function!
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