SWAN’S ISLAND — Inspired by a Civil War photographer who introduced the world to photojournalism, Dale Joyce has been chosen as one of three artists in residence for Manassas National Battlefield Park this year.
Mathew Brady was a famous photographer during the 1800s whose photos of Civil War battlefields were some of the first real-life captures of war. Brady photographed the likes of Abraham Lincoln and John Quincy Adams and was given permission by Lincoln to take pictures of battlefields. His first time out was at the First Battle of Bull Run, now known as Manassas Battlefield National Park.
As Brady did more than 150 years ago, photographer Joyce is looking to capture aspects of the national park using a salt paper format of photography. Unable to pinpoint a specific class or person who taught him the method, Joyce has researched different types of older photography styles and taught himself through trial and error. His ambition is to host workshops in which he can pass these fading techniques on to a new generation.
“There are people like me looking to not only keep them alive but to make them popular again,” said Joyce about older forms of film and paper photography.
In addition to the old-school format that is shot using glass plates, silver nitrate and sunlight, Joyce is planning to shoot scenes where historic battles took place with his Nikon digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. By combining the older and new techniques, Joyce is planning to take some of Brady’s captures and morph them with his, so the older images look like ghosts.
“I’m going to be devoting a fair amount of time to the artistic aspect,” he said.
Joyce’s first camera was a Kodak 110 that fit into his pocket and was a constant companion as he became a teenager. Growing up in Ohio, Joyce ventured to Swan’s Island to spend time with his grandparents, sometimes joining his grandfather on his lobster boat.
“When I wasn’t working for him, I was walking around and taking pictures,” said Joyce. “I find things just walking through the woods.”
Although photography was always a passion for Joyce, he didn’t pursue it full-time until he retired from a 30-year career in software development.
Joyce will travel to Virginia during the first two weeks of May for the artist in residence at the national park. For a photographer who can often capture nearly 2,000 images in a day of shooting, Joyce figures he may have close to 20,000 to process once he returns to Maine. As an artist in residence, he is required to donate one of his pieces to the national park and do a public event. For the latter requirement, Joyce is planning to put together a workshop on the process of salt paper prints and Mathew Brady.
This is not the only artist in residence program Joyce has applied to for this season — he has several irons in the fire, so to speak. Across the country, artists work in more than 40 different units of the National Park Service through Artist-in-Residence programs.
On Friday, as he sat for an interview, Joyce and his wife, Jennifer Helman, were watching results from the Maine Professional Photographers Association’s Annual Convention and Image Competition. He had entered 16 of his prints and one album for judging and the process was going on live via the internet.
Joyce and Helman have lived on Swan’s Island for the last two years. They run the Harbor Watch Inn. Joyce also has a photography studio called Harbor View Studio. His photos were featured on the cover of this year’s Swan’s Island Town Report.
“It’s been a passion that’s been there for all these years,” said Joyce. “I’ve always wanted to be a photographer and I’ve always wanted to live on the island, but you can’t make a living on Swan’s Island as a photographer.”