Around Martha’s Vineyard in photographs

Alison Shaw stands before the central work in her Oak Bluffs Gallery, a new piece from her "Shoreline" Project.

Alison Shaw stands before the central work in her Oak Bluffs Gallery, a new piece from her “Shoreline” Project.

Alison Shaw Gallery, owned by Alison Shaw and Sue Dawson, was a bright and inviting space for people of all ages during the Oak Bluffs Arts District Gallery Stroll on Saturday, July 8. Strollers ambled through the Arts District galleries, including Gallery Josephine, adjacent Judith Drew Schubert’s Periwinkle Studio, Bananas Gallery, and the artists’ cooperative Art Gallery, part of the Martha’s Vineyard Center for the Visual Arts. While some ventured inside of Art Gallery to experience work by a diverse group of Island artists, others gathered in the gallery’s courtyard, where, amid art, food, and music, artist Hannah Moore drew incredibly accurate five-minute portraits of those willing to sit and rest their legs for a moment.

Periwinkle Studio was well attended during the stroll.

At Alison Shaw Gallery, new pieces from Ms. Shaw’s latest project, “Shoreline,” were on display alongside pieces from her previous and ongoing projects. After more than 40 years of photographing Martha’s Vineyard, Ms. Shaw is especially excited and invigorated by “Shoreline.” This project combines her ardent fascination with seascapes with a desire to capture the beauty of each portion of the Island’s coastline in photographs. Pieces from this project are also on display at Granary Gallery, and Alison Shaw Gallery will display more previously unseen pieces during the next Arts District Gallery Stroll on August 5.

“I am primarily drawn to seascapes and the coastline, and yet there were big sections of the coastline that I’d never seen before. I’ve found over the years that I tend to go back to the same places over and over again,” Ms. Shaw described the inspiration behind the project. “Three years ago, it was the fishing pier in Oak Bluffs, and every time it was foggy or stormy or there were big waves or a beautiful sunrise, I’d go back to the fishing pier. For the past year and a half, it’s been a little jetty, also in Oak Bluffs. So I find that I’m missing large chunks of the Island. I’ve realized that I haven’t shot in Aquinnah in five years, and that’s crazy, because we’re on this small Island. This year I thought, I need inspiration and I need a way to push myself.”

Ms. Shaw noted that she sometimes spends an entire day at a new location, waiting for the perfect shot. Once she’s captured the moment, she needs only a few minutes at most to prepare the photograph for print, because she is committed to maintaining the integrity of the photograph as an accurate representation of the moment.

Artist Hannah Moore drew portraits in the Arts Cooperative courtyard during the stroll.

“It’s fun; it’s creating this little mission. It has gotten me motivated and excited, and interestingly, I’m not out of my comfort zone, because I’m still shooting in the same style and I’m still shooting the same subject matter, but I’m seeing the same Island in a new light,” she said.

Beyond the challenge of actually reaching some of the more craggy, inaccessible portions of the coastline, and achieving a photo that meets her standard of quality, Ms. Shaw also challenges herself to choose only one or two photographs from each location that she visits. Because of all the time and energy that goes into each one of these evocative photographs, Ms. Shaw is perhaps even more invested. With a bright sparkle in her eye, she noted, “That word ‘project’ is so important to me, because it’s something that I’m actively working on — there’s no such thing as done.”


Look for more of Alison Shaw’s new pieces at the Granary Gallery Show and the upcoming show at the Alison Shaw Gallery on August 5, as well as next summer, as the project continues.

Visit to see more of her work. The gallery, open daily, is at 88 Dukes County Ave. in Oak Bluffs.