GLOUCESTER — Portraits are about "who." That's obvious. What's not obvious is that they don't have to be only about who. That's true of the 71 photographs in Jim Hooper's "Portraits of a Working Waterfront." Hooper's handsome and eloquent photographs are also about "where" and "what." The show runs through Feb. 1 at the Cape Ann Museum.
The where is Gloucester, and the what are the various fishing-related trades. Hooper's subjects work in them, or did until they retired, or have family members who work in them. The portraits are good-sized, 24 inches by 25 inches, and hang in two rows along all four walls of one of the more handsome of the museum's galleries. The space has an oculus and trussed cathedral ceiling, with Brad Story's sculpture "Seabird" hanging from above. It offers a companionable presence, as well as a kind of presiding spirit, for the photographic population.
Starting on the project in early 2013, Hooper took a year and a half to complete it. The photographs seem to reflect that duration. They have the unhurried but far from inactive air of workaday life. Hooper shot the photographs in color, but the colors are restrained — as if shot beneath a mackerel sky. The restraint was conscious on Hooper's part. "Faded colors," he explains in the show's catalog, "are the inevitable result of a prolonged time in the salt and sun, and subdued colors are perhaps a metaphor for the entire fishing industry these days."
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