Striking Images


Glass Plates & Wooden Boats: The Yachting Photography of Willard B. Jackson at Marblehead, 1898-1937
Matthew Murphy '87

By Daniel McCarthy

This book by Matthew P. Murphy '87, editor of WoodenBoat magazine, is a collection of striking images of gorgeous boats.

Under difficult light conditions, photographer Willard B. Jackson produced shadow details as well as white sails on bright skies. Using a bulky view camera and fragile glass-plate negatives, and working from the moving platform of his own boat, he created rich images that capture the essence and elegance of yachting. There are some working craft and power boats here, but for the large part lofty sailing yachts with billowing sails and gleaming hulls fill Jackson's photographs. These are spectacular boats from the golden age of yachting under sail. The photos have an intimate feel; we're looking through a keyhole at the beauty and power of boating's past.

Murphy's carefully researched text places the images in engaging context. He includes information about builders, designers, and owners. Some subjects are hallowed names in yachting circles, known for their grace, pedigree, or racing history. In other instances Murphy admits when little or nothing is known of a boat, and the image speaks for itself.

The photographs were selected for subject interest, technical quality, and artistry. Murphy presents groups of boats, individuals, and a variety of backgrounds from alongshore architecture to simple horizons. The mix lends a rhythm that keeps the book moving and draws the reader in.

The photographs are gathered from the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., where an exhibit of Jackson's work may be seen until January.
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