A new exhibit featuring Outer Banks photographer Daniel Pullen has recently launched at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, and the series of photographs provide an insider’s look at life on our local waters that visitors rarely get to see.
The exhibit, entitled “Endangered Community: The Independent Waterman Project,” stems from an ongoing and years-long project by Pullen to capture the islanders who work in the local fishing industry.
Folks who have attended the annual Day at the Docks (DATD) celebration in September have likely seen a few of these photos before, (as they were showcased in recent years as a stand-alone exhibit), and the photos have made waves with members throughout the fishing community, and on a larger state-wide scale as well. In fact, on the evening of the museum’s opening reception for the exhibit, one of Pullen’s photos was also being displayed at the annual N.C. Legislative Seafood Dinner in Raleigh – an event that was spearheaded by North Carolina Watermen United and the North Carolina Fishing Association.
The project has been a long and continual undertaking, and the collection of images showcased at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum exhibit include a wide range of photos that were taken over the years. A young boy helping his dad in one of the older photos has recently graduated high school and has bought his first boat to join the industry, while locals and visitors who spend a little time on the docks of Hatteras village may recognize some of the faces throughout the display.
“I wanted the [photos] to be more about the people themselves, and not the fish,” says Pullen. “For the most part, the fish will always be here, but the way [commercial fishing] regulations are going, the fishermen may not be.”
Connecting with the local commercial fishermen took a little work, and some help from longtime commercial fishing advocate Lynne Foster.
The project began seven or eight years ago, when Foster was working on a story for the Island Free Press about the upcoming Day at the Docks event, and asked Daniel to take some accompanying photos.
“Lynne is the reason I started this project,” says Pullen, noting that after this request, Foster orchestrated a ride-along with her husband, Captain Ernie Foster, followed by rides with local and longtime fishermen Michael Peele and Bobby McBride.
“After that, it was apparent that I needed to start documenting their work,” says Pullen.
In turn, Lynne Foster credits Daniel Pullen for his dedication and hard work, as well as his ability to fit in with the local fishermen – an endeavor that isn’t necessarily an easy feat. “They don’t particularly like company – they are hard at work, and there are safety issues to consider, so he had to ease his way in,” says Foster. She notes, however, that when the first series of photographs were taken, it didn’t take long for other anglers to come onboard the project.
Roughly 20 photos by Daniel Pullen are being showcased in the temporary exhibit hall, and an additional collection of images via an eye-catching display are showcased in the main part of the museum as well.
“The Endangered Community: The Independent Waterman Project” will be on display until March 27, 2020, allowing visitors throughout the year to stop by the Hatteras museum and meet the faces of the local fishing industry for themselves.
Pullen hopes that the exposure of the images and the exhibit will help bring attention to a critical issue for Hatteras Islanders – the deterioration of the fishing industry on the Outer Banks, and throughout the state.
“My hope is that this lets people who come here on vacation see how people make a living here,” says Pullen. “We’re letting people know that commercial fishing is still active here, and maybe they will buy local seafood, or learn more about [ongoing issues], and support the industry even more.”
“His dedication to this cause is unbelievable,” says Foster. “It’s important for locals and visitors to get the word out, and this exhibit helps us do that in a [distinctive] way.”
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum is located in Hatteras just past the ferry docks, and is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.