My photography essay on the Irish Moss Industry on Prince Edward Island, Canada, appears this month in Canadian Geographic.
The story behind these photographs begins one blustery morning when the rain was pelting my tent whilst camping with family and friends. The dawn brought with it a slew of men and horses, crawling the North Cape beach and collecting the ‘blessing from the sea’. The photography that day was moody and dramatic as exhausted horses and jubilant men played in the stormy waves. The seawater dripped off their backs, no damper to the joy brought by the bounty the sea had bestowed upon them.
This led me to investigate further. I met Carl Doucette, a brick of a man who has spent over 50 years raking the moss off the sea bed. His arms are testament to the physical labour that has defined his life and his spirit is calming. Having spent so much time on the water, Carl’s is a man comfortable with his place in the world. We sat in his kitchen drinking coffee and tears filled his eyes as he recounted his story about the decline of his industry and his uncertain future.
Heading out on the water with Carl that afternoon will remain one of those memorable experiences as a photographer. The sun glinted off the waves and the moss raked from the sea quickly piled up in the boat. I tried my own hand at raking in the moss and was quickly reminded why Carl’s arms were small trees. It was an honour to spend time with Carl and I am indebted to his story and time for making this essay possible.
My thanks also goes out to the folks at Shea’s Irish Moss Plant in Anglo Tignish. They were kind enough to allow me to work with them for a few hours and photograph their dusty, cavernous operation. They bale the moss into packages that weigh over 120 lbs, (as eagerly demonstrated to me by Rodney, the strong man in the operation).
It was a pleasure to put this essay together. Now go out to your nearest newsstand (in Canada) and buy the issue to see the images.