The Working Waterfront

Moments behind the scenes

Photography and memory move on different tracks

Dan Debord
Posted 2019-08-29
Last Modified 2019-08-29

Reflections is written by Island Fellows, recent college grads who do community service work on Maine islands and in coastal communities through the Island Institute, publisher of The Working Waterfront.

By Dan DeBord

When editor Tom Groening asked me to write this column, he suggested I might write about the photography that I’ve done during my first year on Monhegan. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a great photographer, but given Monhegan’s long history of inspiring artists and my love of photographing this beautiful landscape around me, it seemed like a solid place to start.

However, as I looked back on my photos of the past year and the memories that they brought to mind, I was struck not only by all of the beautiful moments I’d captured, but also by the thought of how many of my favorite memories didn’t make it into the photo album.

Throughout the year, whether warm or cold, I’ve tried to be consistent about going on walks around the island at sunset to unwind from the day’s events.

This habit was easy to track, thanks to the hundreds of sunset photos I’ve taken all over the island. Of course, these are beautiful to look at and fun to share with friends. Missing from my camera roll, however, was my favorite walk of the year.

Following a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with a group that would become some of my best friends here, a few of us walked back to our homes, laughing and talking until one by one we split off in our respective directions.

As I stepped onto my front porch, face freezing from the five-degree air but heart warm from the beautiful evening, I reached up to turn off my headlamp, only to realize it had been off the entire time. My path home wasn’t lit up by my lamp, I could simply see all around town because the moon and stars were that bright on the cold November night.

When I searched through my photographs from this summer so far, my mind immediately went to my favorite community event—a writers Q&A session at Monhegan Library with our distinguished visiting author for the weekend, Lois Lowry.

I had hoped to have caught some sense of her brilliance in a photograph or two, perhaps a laugh or the twinkle in her eye, as she explained the work that she so obviously loved. Clearly, I must have been enjoying the moment too much to think about taking a good photo, as I discovered that the two photos I ended up with were a blurry shot at the end of the event and an accidental follow up photo of the inside of my pocket. 

Some of my best moments this year have been impossible—and perhaps more memorable because of it—for me to capture in a photo. When I look back at the photos of stunning sunsets, snow-covered island landscapes, or fun community events I’ve photographed this year, it’s nice to be reminded of the beauty in this community.

But what I really think of are the friends I met for the first time, the letter from home I was reading, the perfect breeze that day, or the poem I was writing just outside the view of the camera. 

Dan DeBordworks with the Monhegan community to bring high-speed broadband access to the island. He also works with the assessors to set up municipal systems. Originally from Virginia, he has spent summers on Frenchboro. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics and history and a minor in religious studies.