Kissed by a Minnow, Pinched by a Crab - By James Parker, 128 pages, $19.95, James Parker Photography Group, Severna Park, Md.
The main strength of photographer James Parker’s first book could also be viewed as its weakness.
The book features dozens of Parker’s original black-and-white photos of Chesapeake watermen at work, along with Bay-related essays, fiction, random quotations and other tidbits by various authors. While the variety of material is interesting, it can also seem befuddling and incongruous. Is Parker presenting us with a pro-Chesapeake ecology message, a folkloric compendium of Eastern Shore yarns, a lighthearted and personal account of Parker’s experiences photographing the world of watermen, or a primer in rack-of-eye boat building?
The answer: yes.
Such quirkiness has its charms, and some of Parker’s photographs are truly moving, such as the one of the wild-haired skipjack crew-each man with a cigarette clenched between his teeth-furling a mainsail. Like many of the photos, this one was originally taken for the Maryland Waterman’s Gazette and evokes a general sense of the toil required of watermen the Bay over.
Noted Chesapeake author Helen Chapelle contributes a few of her tales from the mythical Bay town of Oysterback, and Bay country fiction writer Steve Burch also adds a few-with plenty of folksy dialogue and crusty old characters driving the action.
Parker has succeeded in giving us the ideal book for pokey readers. Paste a little of this here, slap a dollop of that there, throw in some excellent photography, and you’ve got a book perfect for incidental, if not highbrow, reading.