Nantucket’s most tenured photographer answers the long asked question, “What is it like living on the island year-round?”
Cary Hazlegrove is synonymous with spectacular island imagery. Since 1978, the photographer, originally from Virginia, has captured the face of the Grey Lady in all her forms. Her portraits and landscapes adorn the pages of twelve books and nine slide-show productions that once played in the Methodist Church. Most recently, Cary added yet another dimension to her portfolio with Nantucket: In the Midst of Waters, a film to run at the Whaling Museum throughout the year.
In twenty-four minutes, Cary tells the story of life on Nantucket through a breathtaking array of photos set to music composed and performed by her husband, Andy Bullington. The film is enchanting, sewn together with nostalgic voiceovers by longtime locals that read like unrehearsed poetry—as that by Gene Mahon: “Ninety percent of the time, I’m immersed in my own thoughts, but in those moments when I look up and look around, I lose my breath and I just can’t believe I live on this island.”
Different than her productions of the past, which involved orchestrating projectors with music playing in the background, In the Midst of Waters was made as a film. Mounted to a tripod, her camera captures what at first appears to be a still image, but then lapping water, falling snow or the blink of a lighthouse reveals the change of medium and adds another layer to the work. This subtle use of motion pictures lends movement to the still images and propels the film as a completely unique piece of artwork.
Fingerpicked guitar by Andy Bullington, harp by Mary Keller, and the haunting cello and whimsical voice of Mollie Glazer soothe the senses as the images transition from one to another, linked by subtle details of color, shape, texture, and theme. The film begins with images from September, flying the audience in with aerial shots that Cary took from the open window of Chris McLaughlin’s single-prop plane. “The year doesn’t start for me in January, it starts in September when everyone goes away,” she says. “As a storyteller, I believe you need to arrive at your destination before you can tell a story about it—that’s why I always start with aerials.” From September, Cary guides viewers through the seasons, with each chapter imbued with characteristics that only a year-rounder can describe: the delight of fall, the quiet of winter, the hope of spring, the energy of summer.
One element intentionally omitted is people, that is to say formal portraits. Apart from some select shots of children playing or aerials of beachgoers, the film consists almost entirely of inanimate objects. Yet within three seconds of being on the screen, the images begin to personify life on the island. “You can tell a whole life story in one image,” Cary says, “and that’s why I have always done still work, because it is compelling to show one whole thing in one small image.” A longer version of the film, available later this summer, will include people. However, for now, the story is told beautifully through landscapes, architecture, and a selection of the lovely little details that make up this place.
For vacationers, In the Midst of Waters reveals the Nantucket beyond the cobblestones and beaches. “When you land here, you feel it in your heart: the love for Nantucket,” Cary says. “I just want people to experience a quiet version of that in a little, encapsulated twenty-four-minute production.” Visitors can share Cary’s vision at the Whaling Museum throughout the summer where In the Midst of Waters will play three times per day, or from the comfort of their home on DVD or iBook. For islanders, Cary’s film offers a moment of pause, a time to lose their breath and once again reflect upon the overpowering beauty of their home.