“A community is like a ship. Everyone should be prepared to take the helm.”
This week we have been challenged to illustrate the concept of “community”. In response, I’ve chosen to highlight one of the more interesting communities here in the lowcountry, the shrimpers. The warm waters surrounding Charleston make it an ideal environment for catching sweet, delicious shrimp and the result is a community of hearty, determined shrimpers who brave the elements to bring back their annual crop.
“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.”
S. Kelley Harrell
Theirs is not an easy life. Work begins long before the sun and runs deep into the night, often overnight. Results are inconsistent, depending on so many variables. Even when the catch is a good one, rising costs and low-priced foreign competition contribute to very thin margins. Shrimpers are restricted to certain areas and specific times of year, and are of course impacted by the tremendous fluctuations in shrimp population.
“A community with neither poverty nor riches always has the noblest principles.”
Challenges not-withstanding, the shrimpers whose livelihoods are so precarious could not have been more gracious as I wandered around their workspace with my camera equipment! Clearly they thought I was a bit crazy as I shot things that to them could not have been more mundane, but which for me were wonderful examples of color and texture, and a life completely foreign to me.
“In every community there is work to be done; in every heart, the power to do it.”
It seems to me, at least during their season (typically May through November), that the work never ends. When they aren’t out dragging their nets, they’re back at the dock cleaning, repairing and outfitting their trawlers for the next time. Then, of course, they need to sell and deliver their catch. Their numbers are dwindling as fewer and fewer of them are able to make a living – often ending generations of working the waters here in our area.
“The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual.”
As you might expect, birds often follow the trawlers as they work, hoping to steal either the catch or the bait – their grace and speed are amazing as they swoop and swirl behind the boats in a veritable aerial ballet. Once the boats return to the docks, the birds take up residence anywhere they can find a spot to observe the action, hoping for a spill or a toss.
“Communication leads to community.”
When not on the water or working their boats, the shrimpers can often be found in the packing house, where catches are weighed, counted and packed in ice. My home is not too far from Cherry Point Dock, where I shot these photographs. The local shrimp, tuna and redfish are incredibly fresh and are available for purchase directly; my husband and I have taken advantage of it many times. The delicious seafood also finds its way onto the menus of some of the best restaurants in town.
“Until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.”
I’ll close with a shot of a shrimper that I captured one morning just before sunrise here on Kiawah’s beach. I vowed never again to complain about waking early for photography when I saw the trawler which had arrived long before I had and would surely be there long after I left. Here’s to the working communities everywhere who make life so much easier for the rest of us.
“An enlightened person raises the level of consciousness of the entire community.”
To see the communities featured by some other bloggers, click here.