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Pandemic Storm

Title: Vineyard Ferry Parking. April 2020 · Photographer: Jon Moore
In March 2020, the world froze. Over the past three and a half years we have seen: #METOO. Children placed in cages. The rise of the US economy. A world pandemic. The fall of the US economy. Police killings of black men. Protests, violence, and racism, along with the glimmer of hope for an awakening.

A group of dedicated Cape Cod photographers, whose lives and photos have been acutely impacted by COVID-19, are making photographs as an emotional response.

photography by the members of the Cape Photo Collective

Like every photogenic destination, Cape Cod has its share of iconic images. A Race Point sunset, a sailboat keeling in Nantucket Sound, the stoic glory of Nobska Light. While these make for beautiful postcards, they are undoubtedly cliches. For a band of eight like-minded Cape photographers, these images are verboten. 

“No pictures of lighthouses, no pictures of sunsets, no pictures of fishing boats,” says Jon Moore, founder of the Cape Photo Collective. “That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to look at new ways of seeing.”

The Cape Photo Collective (CPC) formed in early 2013 when Moore offered a series of classes at the Falmouth Art Center. By the time the fourth class ended, a talented core group had emerged and Moore intuited a special dynamic. He organized a fifth session at Falmouth’s historic Highfield Hall where he maintained an office space for his architectural photography business. “At that point, it wasn’t really a course anymore but a collection of artists,” Moore says. 

The photographers met regularly to critique each other’s pictures, discuss technical aspects of their craft, and explore opportunities to share their individual work in a collective manner. Before long, the CPC held its first exhibition at the Cape Conservatory. Several successful shows have followed. Although the styles and subject matter of each photographer vary, the CPC’s exhibited work always revolves around a central idea. This concept-driven approach has produced shows with titles like “Undiscovered” and “Quintessence.” These particular themes help an outsider understand the guiding ethos that unites and propels the group. They view photography as a medium that can enhance one’s understanding of the surrounding world. 

“My purpose is to reveal what is there that our eyes often overlook,” says Julie DeMello, a Falmouth native who other CPC members praise as a creative and novel thinker who helps expand the group’s horizons. 

Richard Hale, who started visiting Cape Cod in 1975 after meeting his future wife, “a Woods Hole Kid,” expresses a similar sentiment. “I like to make pictures that ask questions or present a new perspective on things we might see every day,” says Hale. 

Underpinning the group’s shared philosophy is a steadfast commitment to honing their craft. The eight photographers who currently make up the CPC are all over 60-years-old, and many of them have more than three decades of experience. Despite the wealth of collective knowledge, there is no sense of complacency. The photographers constantly push themselves and each other to explore new methods for using their cameras to gain a fresh perspective of a familiar world. “Coming to the CPC refocused the power of photography, making it more meaningful to me,” says Kevin Ledwell, the group’s newest member. The cohort has an unwavering dedication to the process and experience of “making photographs,” a phrase popularized by Ansel Adams that members of the CPC employ often.

“When you’re making a photograph,” Moore says, “you’re creating something. When you’re taking a photograph, you’re recording something. I think there’s a strong distinction there.” When you are intentional about making photographs, Moore explains, you gain a heightened awareness for how the camera perceives the world. “It’s this kind of working correlation between you and the medium,” he says. 

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