My Introduction to Peter Ralston's Work

It's 7pm and dark already. The rain began a few minutes ago and is steadily increasing. I love the sound of it on the roof of our tiny little home here in the Arizona mountains. The thunder is rolling off in the south. My beeswax candle is burning and flickering in the cool breeze coming in through my open window, a window I will soon have to close. 

It is one of those magical nights and,
I've been lost for hours online looking at Peter Ralston's photographs and reading his stories. 

It is only recently that I discovered who Peter Ralston is. How I've come to know of his work is pure serendipity to me. 

Silver Morning in Rockport, ME

My husband and I grew up in Maine. The mid-coast of Maine, in the Rockport area. Our families became best of friends back in 1971. However, it has been many, many years since we've lived in Maine. 

In August we returned for ten days. My father-in-law use to be the pastor of Rockport Baptist Church and West Rockport Baptist Church. On August 25th he was preaching at West Rockport Baptist Church.  So we decided to rent a cottage on the sea, invited our 2nd son and his family of four from New York to join us and his grandparents for a week's vacation. 

My husband and I walked all around the area seeing up close what we use to drive past as kids. A four mile walk took us into Camden's village. A one mile walk to Rockport harbor where my son and his grandfather went fishing off one of the wharfs. We walk to the Children's Chapel and on the dirt lanes. 

It was on one of those walks to Rockport's harbor that I wandered into Ralston Gallery. I was struck with the simple beauty of the images. Images that completely captured the essence of coastal Maine. 

I didn't stay long as I wanted to catch up with my husband and take some photos of "our" fishermen on the wharf, but I grabbed the 9"x4" drop card of the gallery with Peter Ralston's Pentecost photo on it. 

Fast forward two weeks...this afternoon I was sitting with my dad chatting and polishing some old family silver spoons (another story for another time). I looked into my bag and saw the Ralston Gallery card and handed it to my dad. He read the back and commented on Andrew Wyeth being a lifelong friend of Mr. Ralston. 

Years and years ago my dad painted the bell tower that Andrew Wyeth owned at Tenants Harbor. I remember him talking about when I was a child. So dad and I walked down memory lane for awhile before he nodded off to sleep.

All that led to me to taking the gallery's card this evening and looking up the website and becoming captivated by the images and stories of Peter Ralston. 

One story about Spectre spoke volumes to me. Here is a quote from his article:

"Spectre is one of my favorite boat photographs...taken some years ago, down east off Little Cranberry Island. 

But more, this photograph taught me a lot…it became an important lesson. You see, I was shooting Kodachrome back then and a week or so after I made this exposure I was editing my work and saw this on the lightbox.

“Ehhh,” I thought, “this is boring/banal.” But then on a whim I turned it upside down and it suddenly became an image I like a lot.

The revelation reminded me, once again, to think outside the box, break rules, be messy, take chances, etc etc etc.    No one ever lit up the world by being conventional."

It inspires and challenges me in my own photographic journey. It reminds me once again that, "A done something is better than a perfect nothing." I believe that as we get messy and get out of the boxes we will learn to take better photographs and make better art. Then, I believe, we will begin to attain the perfection that we strive for. 

One last thought along those lines from David DuChemin's Introduction in his new ebook, The Visual Toolbox:

"There is no secret thing you will learn here or anywhere else, except this: study, practice, and don’t forget that your most important assets as an artist are imagination, passion, patience, receptivity, curiosity, and a dogged refusal to follow the rules."