I recently asked Jay Fleming, a local photographer from Annapolis, to be in my Artisan Portraits film series. The series focuses on artists and tells their story of why and how they create. Jay happens to specialize on capturing life on the Chesapeake Bay.
He asked me to meet him down at Smith Island – part of a series of islands at one of the most southern points in Maryland. Smith Island is Maryland’s only inhabited Chesapeake Bay Island that is unattached to the mainland by bridge. The island was first mapped by Captain John Smith in 1608, and people have lived and worked on the island for over 200 years.
It’s a 45 minute ferry ride out to the island. Once you arrive, there are three small islands that are inhabited. Jay originally visited these set of islands to photography a unique group of pelicans that nest nearby. Continuing to photograph the Chesapeake Bay, Jay started making more visits to the islands, not only documenting the wildlife but also the people who called Smith Island home.
Jay goes back often to photograph on Smith Island for an assignment or to offer a photography workshop. Throughout his time there he has found out the best places to take photos on the island, taking people who sign up for his workshops there to photograph take their own photos.
What I found most unique about my time with Jay on the island was not only how well he knew his surroundings, but how he really became a part of the environment and communities he visits. I think that’s one reason why his photographs standout and are so unique. Over the years, people on the island have become friends with Jay, and it shows through in the portraits he takes of them. When I first started to talk to Jay about featuring him in my film series, I did not know about this new world I was going to get to explore.
Jay Fleming’s first book, titled “Working the Water”, which is on its third printing, is on sale now, and a perfect gift for the art-lover in your family. He also shared with me that he’s currently working on another book that will be titled “Island Life”, which will specifically highlight Smith and Tangier Islands.
Videography and photos courtesy of Patrick McNamara of Drawn to the Image.