I was selected as the 2015 Port Bickerton Lighthouse artist-in-residence. I was awarded the residency through an annual competition open to established Atlantic Canadian writers and artists of any genre.
I spent two weeks living in a renovated lighthouse keeper's cottage in the small fishing village of Port Bickerton, Nova Scotia. The area provided opportunities for landscape, documentary, and nature photography.
The primary focus for the residency was to push and deepen my work in the landscape genre. Ideally, the emphasis would be on (1) minimalism and (2) photographing scenes on multiple occasions to capture them in different light and weather. The two-week duration of the residency would greatly facilitate the latter. However, being unfamiliar with the area, I would adapt to the available light, weather, scenery, and subjects. A secondary focus, if possible, would be to expand upon a personal project on lobster fishing.
Port Bickerton is a small fishing village nestled on the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia's Guysborough County. It's part of the Eastern Shore but the locals sometimes refer to it as the "Forgotten Shore" since it's a little off the beaten path. Despite its size, it has a rich history of fishing and seafaring and the local economy remains closely tied to the ocean. The people are warm, welcoming, industrious, and the very embodiment of Maritime hospitality.
The artist-in-residence gets to stay in a renovated lighthouse keeper's cottage. The cozy and comfortable space includes a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms. It's fully stocked with everything you need except for your food and personal items.
Next to the residence is a working lighthouse. Built circa 1960, it is the third lighthouse at this location. It was automated in 1988, and declared surplus in the mid-1990s. Ownership was transferred to the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's in 2012.
Also located near the cottage is the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Interpretive Centre. Housed in an older and now decommissioned lighthouse, it outlines the history of this and other lighthouses in the province while also displaying artifacts from the Port Bickerton light.
The lighthouse area includes several hiking trails. The trails and boardwalks will take you from the lighthouse to nearby coves and beaches, where you can see shorebirds and wildlife or simply relax in the fresh air and salt breeze.
Below are a handful of photos from the town. Additional images from my Port Bickerton residency can be found in the Prints section of the website as well as the "Andrea Lynn" gallery further down this page.
My residency proposal included a desire to spend a couple of days on the water with a local lobster fishing crew. I already had a lobster fishing project on the go and felt this would be a good opportunity to expand on it. Fortunately, my residency dates coincided with the final two weeks of the local lobster season, and my hosts had no trouble finding a skipper willing to take me along.
Only a couple of people knew I had been out on a lobster boat before, so there were a few jokes, and apparently a couple of bets, on how long it would take for this city-slicker to get seasick! I was highly amused, but not the least bit sorry to disappoint.
There weren't a whole lot of differences between fishing off the Atlantic coast and fishing in the Bay of Fundy. The biggest one, for me at least, was the early morning sailings. In the Bay of Fundy we had to leave and return based on the tides - the highest in the world - so departure times could vary from early to mid-morning. In Port Bickerton tides weren't a concern, so the boats sailed around 4:30 - 5:00 am every day. No chance to sleep in!
I ended up making two trips about a week apart. In hindsight, I probably should have gone out at least one more time but I wasn't sure how the two weeks would play out and didn't want to miss other photographic opportunities.
The Andrea Lynn is owned and skippered by Bruce Jack (center), and crewed by Brian "Duke" Kaiser (left) and Catlin Jack (right). I'm grateful to them for tolerating me and my camera.
This ain't no cubicle! The weather doesn't always cooperate, and early mornings can be hard, but nothing quite compares to fresh air, salt breezes, and glorious sunrises on the Atlantic ocean.
The boats fish seven days a week during the short two-month-long spring season, with all of the 250 traps checked daily. Each trap is hauled aboard, emptied, cleaned, and re-baited before going back into the water for another day. The catch is sorted, with undersized lobster and egg-bearing females being thrown back to ensure the continued survival of the species and the fishery.
The day's work ends with a return to home port to offload the catch. Lobster fishing is cyclical, so some days, and some years, are better than others. But this traditional occupation remains strong, and is the lifeblood of many small Atlantic Canadian towns like Port Bickerton.
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