For Love of Wood and Boats
I am a photographer, an educator, a sailor, and an admirer of people who work with their hands. For several months I have been photographing students at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI and this project has touched all those parts of me. The school’s mission to train people for this skilled work, the hands-on and project based learning, the simple beauty of the boats and the tools used to restore them, and the effect of the light reflecting on the students and their work in this particular setting creates a beautiful and inspiring experience.
Each year approximately 17 new students, aged 18 to 80 from around the world, are accepted into the school’s two-year program. They work in teams to learn the techniques and problem-solving approaches of wooden-yacht restoration. To succeed, students must develop focus, concentration, patience, and meticulous attention to detail. Their craft demands envisioning the solution to each obstacle encountered along with problem solving, dexterity, respect for the medium, and a refusal to accept flaws. They learn to appreciate the beauty of different woods and to know the properties of each so that they can use them effectively in the boats they restore. Using very few power tools, they create both beautiful and functional art. In this era of plastics and carbon fiber, the I.Y.R.S. teaches the art of traditional boat making and the beauty and functionality of wood.
I have been photographing the students and their work for over three months and will continue until their graduation. At that time my work will be done, but the students will have just begun. While some may end up using their skills in land-bound work as skilled woodworkers, most will work in boat yards dedicated to the art of restoring and preserving wooden boats.