A special exhibit will be on display beginning Friday at Foothills Arts Council, 129 Church St., featuring items and photographs taken of things washed up on a Maine beach. A reception and gallery opening will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday for the exhibit entitled “Washed Up,” featuring the photography of Joe Fisch. Refreshments will be served and Carolina Heritage Winery will be on hand selling wines by the glass.
“Joe’s exhibit is going to be most unique, not only in the photographs, but with the display of many of his ‘washed up’ items,” said Foothills Arts Council Director Leighanne Martin Wright.
Fisch lived for a time on Long Sands Beach in York, Maine. From September of 2003 to May of 2004, he collected and photographed a wide variety of items that washed up on Long Sands Beach.
Children’s toys were a common item he would find on the shore. Fisch would collect the toys and decided it would be fun to photograph them.
“I started to photograph them on my dining room table but they just seemed like plastic toys,” Fisch said. “When I photographed them on the beach it was if they all came to life again!”
Over the course of eight months Fisch collected six rubber totes of items, including more than 60 shovels, 50 army men, 40 sand molds, lighters, shot gun shells and more.
“I tend to be an early riser so every morning I would get up and take pictures of the sunrise,” Fisch said. “After the picture taking was over, I would walk the beach and pick up stuff. It started out as just savable items like toys and ended up as an environmental project as well.
“It was easy to save the army men and fire trucks and things like that because they were all so interesting and fun,” Fisch said of his beach collecting. “The trash — items like lighters, shotgun shells, bottle caps and other items just started adding up and I decided to just save them in hopes of sharing with others how much stuff gets thrown away and eventually washes up on the beach.
“Those items never go away unless they are properly disposed of,” Fisch added. “We need to be more careful as keepers of this earth to make sure we pick up after ourselves and keep track of our belongings.”
Fisch said he had some favorite items he found along the beach, but his favorite stories about his time collecting involve a baby doll and a pair of child’s sandals.
“I found a baby doll face down one evening after a big storm and she was missing a leg. Two days later I found the leg about 100 yards down the beach in a pile of seaweed. The other story is similar, when I found a toddler’s sandal one day and I included it with all of the other sandals I had found. About three weeks later I found the match to that sandal.”
The Washed Up exhibit will the mark the first time Fisch has publicly displayed the collection though he has won awards for some of his photographs.
He said he was excited and a bit nervous about his first gallery show.
Fisch said he hopes people enjoy themselves at the gallery opening on Friday, but he also hopes they take away an important message about how human habits can affect the environment.
“Ultimately, I would love for people to get a glimpse of how many items get thrown away and yet never really go away. They wash up on the beaches all over the world each year. This was one beach in one state over one winter and I collected six totes worth of items,” Fisch said. “Perhaps it will make people think twice about the effect littering has on our land and our oceans. Maybe when people go to the beach this summer they might pay a little more attention to what they bring to the beach and what they bring home.”
For more information on upcoming events at Foothills Arts Council, visit their Facebook page or www.foothillsartscouncil.org.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.