Norman Fortier, born in 1922, was still a youngster when he became interested in photography. Drafted into the military during World War II, he became an aerial photographer and honed his photography skills during the war before returning to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took on normal photography jobs. He gradually migrated to marine photography, and in 1947 opened his own studio at the Concordia boatyard. The rest, as they say, is history.
On the Wind: The Marine Photographs of Norman Fortier, is a 9 x 10-inch coffee-table book with more than 140 black and white images depicting aspects of the Southern New England marine environment: mostly sailboats, but also motorboats, working trawlers, a couple of lighthouses, boatbuilders, and sailors, stunning ground level and aerial shots of bays and harbors, and even a few heartbreaking images of wrecked sailboats.
Anyone interested in marine photography, the Buzzards Bay area, or fine photography will find something to enjoy in these photos. This collection of images was culled from more than 100,000 negatives obtained by the New Bedford Whaling Museum. It is easy to see why Norman Fortier was in such demand as a marine photographer.
His work portrays a historical view of the New England coastal areas in which he lived and worked during the mid- 20th century. He attended and photographed hundreds of races and regattas in the area, and very few yachts passed through Buzzards Bay without being captured by Norman’s cameras.
The introductions by Calvin Siegal and Llewellyn Howland III discuss the history of marine photography in the Buzzards Bay area, give insight into Norman’s equipment and style, and provide a brief glimpse of the man and his life. The 127 pages of photos are divided into nine chapters selected by topic or region, such as Concordias, New York Yacht Club Cruises, The Islands, Cuttyhunk, and New Bedford.
Some of the photos I found to be most memorable included the four-masted Russian bark, Kruzenshtern, aerial photos of Padanaram and other harbors, children swimming on horseback off Naushon (a shot reminiscent of my own childhood experiences), and a heartbreaking shot of the 38-foot yawl, Seachief II, hard on the rocks.
This book displays some of the best in New England marine photography and would make a cherished addition to any sailor’s library.
On the Wind: The Marine Photographs of Norman Fortier with introductions by Calvin Siegal and Llewellyn Howland III (David R. Godine; 2008; 160 pages)