Smith on Smith
In the last week of May, I visited Smith Island for a couple of days.
Smith Island, known primarily for its namesake cake, is Maryland's only inhabited offshore island in the Chesapeake, as all the others have eroded and vanished. Exposed as it is, Smith Island could also disappear, according to experts, in the next few decades. Accessible only by boat, it’s actually a group of loosely connected islands, approximately eight miles long and four miles wide. More than 200 hardy souls (many of them watermen whose ancestors settled here in the 1700s) live on the island, clustered in three communities: Ewell, Rhodes Point, and Tylerton.
Since I first heard about Smith Island from friends at The Baltimore Sun years ago, they made it sound like a wonderland for photojournalists - story after story to be told. I had never been until this time and it was everything I thought it would be. Everyone was friendly and I felt as if I knew them my entire life. They weren’t afraid to open their lives with me, and for that, I am thankful.
With the help of some local residents and those familiar with the island, I was introduced to Junior, and his son, Buddy. I hung out with Junior for the better part of those days, documenting everything about his day; from sitting in the local store, helping others, readying his boat, to sitting on his couch talking, and waking at 4 a.m. to work the water.
Junior is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met. From the minute I met him, he wasn’t afraid to tell me about himself and allow me into his life. He is patient, unhurried and honest. Whether it was Junior or other residents, I’m impressed by their strong family values and hard-work ethic on the island. Both men and women rise early to help provide for their family, and work long days, only to cherish the time with their loved ones after it’s all said and done.
While this is a very tight-knit community, rich with religious ties and history, most of my images show the solitude of the island. I hope to dive deeper in finding more of the community aspect later this year.
This visual journey, which is very much an on-going story about the people of Smith Island, was run in Baltimore Magazine this month over eight pages thanks to my wonderful editors over there. Please check it out in their Best of Baltimore issue.
I want thank all of the people of Smith Island for their hospitality and kindness, as well as, all those that helped inspire me to finally get down to the island. I hope to return soon to continue to document this unique, magical community that Maryland has.
As this is an on-going essay, here are a few favorites from my first, short stay.