Pause to enjoy what’s close to home

When Joel Sackett approached the Review about contributing a weekly photo feature to these pages, we had to give it some serious thought – about a New York minute’s worth.

The “negotiations” took place over hastily slurped lattes at a downtown Winslow coffee shop, a crazy afternoon when he caught us en route to yet another coffee venue for more lattes with other VIPs to discuss more pressing matters still – a whirlwind scenario that inspired some mirth for Joel, who found it better suited to another island, bustling Manhattan in his native New York City than the slower-paced Bainbridge.

Once we caught our breath, we were glad to add Joel to our stable of regular contributors. His curriculum vitae speaks for itself; a commercial photographer who eschews color imagery for dulcet black-and-white, and prefers old-school film and paper to digital, Joel has been documenting goings-on in our island community for close on 15 years. Surely most every islander paused at one time or another to appreciate his images as they were displayed in the front window of the (now sadly missed) downtown hardware store. His excellent portraits of the island’s Filipino-American community are on permanent display at the neighborhood hall on Strawberry Hill.

Most recently, he collaborated with island writer Candace Jagel on “An Island In Time,” a coffee table-worthy tome of portraiture and interviews profiling some of the island’s more colorful personalities. His new series for the Review, which Joel is calling “Close to Home,” will be something of a continuation of that work. Joel explains it this way:

“The portraits will reflect the diversity of the community. I would like to keep it open rather than scripted, but already know that I would include elders, artists, volunteers, civil servants, and all kinds of activists. I am also interested in more low-profile types: ferry commuters, merchants, teachers, students, housewives and hermits. I would respond to the many suggestions I receive from islanders, making it more interactive with the community. And, there might be the occasional non-portrait; a vignette, a detail, or decisive moment. My work is a mix of fine art and journalism, always about people, lifestyle and history. These combined interests make sense to islanders, the Review’s readership. I’m fortunate to have such a receptive audience for my work, and would like to continue to reach them.”

The Review is pleased to be the forum for Joel Sackett’s new series, which should appear every Wednesday amid the letters, columns and other expressions of community thought. (Today’s debut, over on page 5, actually captures a lasting image from the tail end of 2005 – the Christmas Day storm.) At the end of the project 12 months hence, we hope to see the complete series displayed at City Hall or in some other public venue. The photographs will then be donated to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum for archiving, a chronicle of one year in the life of our community.

Why? As one of the project’s collaborators recently observed, “days and months are passing by like freakish wildfire. American culture has us running around with a latte in hand and mindful of nonsense...it’s time to take notice of what’s around us.”

Don’t we know it. We’re ready to slow down a bit, and enjoy what we have so close to home.

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