Shadows of the Gullah Geechee – 2013 Year-End Update

Hilton Head Native Islander Harry Murray pilots his bateau boat in a creek off of Hilton Head Island. Bateau boats, shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boats, were important for transportation, as well as fishing. There are very few Gullah Geechee that still use them and finding someone who still makes them by hand is rare.

Hilton Head Native Islander Harry Murray pilots his bateau boat in a creek off of Hilton Head Island. Bateau boats, shallow-draft, flat-bottomed boats, were important for transportation, as well as fishing. There are very few Gullah Geechee that still use them and finding someone who still makes them by hand is rare.

I have had an amazing year working on this project. I have met wonderful people in the Gullah Geechee communities of Ten-Mile, Sol Legare, Hilton Head, Daufuskie and Sapelo islands and have rekindled many friendships with people I had met while covering this story in years past. Thank you for helping make it possible!

While I had intended to have the photography for the project completed by year’s end, scheduling and logistics have unfortunately made that deadline unattainable. I still need to document life on St. Helena Island and have tentative plans to travel there to visit Queen Quet and photograph the island’s Gullah Geechee community in the spring/early summer of 2014.

I also plan to photograph a Gullah Geechee Middle Passage Remembrance ceremony. These annual events are held to honor the millions of enslaved Africans who perished during the treacherous Middle Passage voyages — during which slaves where shipped from Africa to the Americas as part of the Atlantic slave trade.

A Gullah oysterman unloads his catch from the May River near Hilton Head.

A Gullah oysterman unloads his catch from the May River near Hilton Head.

Discovering Forgotten Images

While sorting through boxes of old negatives and transparencies recently, I came across a couple of images that I had made years ago when I was just beginning this project. And it’s a good thing, because a couple of them may even make the final cut for the project!

The best find was the image at the top of this newsletter. I had a digital file of the photo of Harry Murray rowing his Bateau boat in a creek near Hilton Head Island, but the quality of the file was so poor that I assumed that I had shot the photo with one of the first-generation digital cameras I was using at the time.

But as it turns out, I had actually shot the picture on film and found the original negative while digging through my boxes. I’m very excited about finding the negative because it will reproduce much better than the old digital file.

I also found the images of the oysterman unloading his catch and the shrimp boat passing tourists on the beach.

Tourists search for shells along the beach on Hilton Head Island as a shrimp boat passes in the distance.

Tourists search for shells along the beach on Hilton Head Island as a shrimp boat passes in the distance.

More To Come

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! Stay tuned for updates on the design of the book, which is in progress, and from the trip to St. Helena Island. I look forward to continuing my work on this project in 2014!

All Shadows of the Gullah Geechee project updates can be found here: Shadows of the Gullah Geechee Updates.

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