A couple of years ago I was asked to be the subject of a documentary about me as a photographer to be titled “Peter’s Eye.” The producer/videographer and the executive producer are both very special friends and besides, my initials aren’t PR for nothing, so I was enthusiastically all-in for the project.
It basically entailed the two-person (camera and sound) crew and me just hanging out on RAVEN for a couple of days as I went prowling around with my camera.
On our third day we were poking around on Vinalhaven Island in a pickup truck I borrowed from a friend. We headed up to the north end of the island and they filmed me shooting in an old cemetery, which contains one of the most evocative sights I have ever beheld. (see Her Children)
After that we headed back into town as I had tied RAVEN up in a place that demanded some attention. Having checked on her, we drove around the harbor for a bit and as we cruised down a narrow road I saw a few dories in the field behind a small house.
I asked my friends, the crew, to stay put and I knocked on the door of the house to ask permission for a little creative trespass. The door was answered by an absolutely beautiful older woman, Isabelle Osgood by name, who was nothing but charming and welcoming. She said that of course I could go photograph the dories, they belonged to her husband who, she mentioned right away, died at home last week.
I was immediately and deeply moved. I sensed that I was a very welcome intrusion…there was just something there, between us, which had us both latching right on to each other’s company.
It was a bit weird to explain that I had two friends out in the truck and that they were kind of making a movie with me in it, but she didn’t bat an eye and suggested that we all go for a little walk over into the adjacent old quarry, now a lovely swimming hole.
Isabelle and I strolled and talked…in mere minutes we were lost in deep conversation about her husband and my father and how perfect it was that they had both died at home. We were fast friends.
After the quarry we walked back over by the house and she insisted that we all come in for a spell which felt especially dear given the tumult of the last few days for her. Again, she and I just chatted away and she asked us if we’d like to sit a while, but I allowed that I had tied up at the town wharf and the tide was going so I couldn’t be as gracious in return but did she mind if I scooted down to take a few photographs of the dories?
“Help yourself, dear,” was her response so off we went, the three of us, me in the lead and the film twosome behind. The dories were visually interesting, but I was drawn to the wharf and after poking around a little bit there I opened the door to the fish house and was absolutely riveted by the old jacket hanging just inside…I saw it as an absolute portrait of her husband.
While I was in there making a few images, Isabelle came in and I asked her about the jacket, but all of a sudden I knew that the best possible portrait of “them” as a couple would be a shot of her in his fish house.
I asked if I might do that and she suggested that I should be careful, that she “might break your camera,” but she was – to the core – gracious and allowed me to make this portrait. It is one of my favorites. I think I actually “got” Isabelle here…her beauty, grace, strength and, maybe, just a touch of her vulnerability.
I thanked her for allowing me to do this and she simply stated that it was nothing, just “common courtesy around here.” We then flirted each other up a bit as I stated that I had to go or the boat would be aground. She opined that that such an event would be fine by her as I would then have to stay a while, but we left it that I would come back and see her soon.
I never saw her again.
Instead of getting right back out there, life rolled along at a full boil for me and although I made her a nice print of the portrait and of the dories, I didn’t act soon enough….damn fool that I am. She died before I returned…and I will always regret not making a second visit with Isabelle, one of the most naturally beautiful women I have ever met.
“Peter’s Eye” was, in the final cut, dedicated to Isabelle A. Osgood, 1924-2010…and to my dear friend, the Executive Producer, Matthew R. Simmons, 1943 – 2010, who died very suddenly on nearby North Haven, only five weeks after Isabelle.
Lessons here…lessons abound.