Photographer Miranda Batiste began taking portraits of her fellow year-round residents of Swans Island last spring.
“I’ve done a lot of shooting on Swans because it’s such a glorious place and the environment is so special,” she said. “In doing that, I became completely intrigued by all of the people who live here … and I wanted to celebrate those who live here year round.”
Her photos of her neighbors are now on the display in the Swan’s Island Library. The exhibit, titled simply “We Are Swans Island,” opened Dec. 15 and will be up at least through January.
“What didn’t really come as a shock to me, but I was still delighted to see through my lens, is the incredible movement and life and joy and fun of this island,” Batiste said. “So many people in the pictures are laughing and smiling and looking at each other. I think it’s a real celebration of the island’s spirit and the way we live out here.”
Batiste said she was able to photograph a majority, but not all, of the island’s 320 or so permanent residents.
“I think a lot of people who feel that the history of this place is worth preserving were very much for the project,” she said.
Others seemed suspicious that the photos would somehow portray the islanders in an unfavorable light. Some were simply shy or had no interest. A few were downright hostile.
“There were some people who have certainly introduced me to some flowery language that I swear I had not heard before in my 60 years,” Batiste said. “That was a bit disconcerting, but we’ve moved on.”
Helping Batiste with the portrait project was island resident Jill Trask.
“She is completely fearless in approaching people and saying, ‘We’re going to take your picture in about 10 minutes,’” Batiste said.
Some of the photographs have been blown up quite large for the exhibit at the library, with many of them hanging from the ceiling.
“We wanted it to be an exhibit with some dimension to it and a life of its own,” Batiste said.
“Hopefully people will like it. Hopefully I won’t be voted off the island.”
She and her husband, Steve, have lived on Swans Island for 11 years.