Beacons Through Time

Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same
Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Lighthouse

23 July 2023: Thank you to Emulsive.org for publishing my writeup on Beacons Through Time, available here.

27 July 2023: I’ll be aboard the Piscataqua on 29 September 2023 to auction a signed print of Portsmouth Harbor Light and raise funds for the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Light. Tickets are available here.

22 August 2023: I stopped by the Lensless Podcast to chat about this project, some favorite moments, and its inspiration. Thanks Andrew!

10 September 2023: The US Lighthouse Society’s Light Hearted Podcast with Jeremy D’Entremont hosted me for a chat about this project as well as the sailing event to benefit Portsmouth Harbor Light. Listen here.

12 September 2023: I’ll be heading down to Charleston on Saturday, October 7 to give a talk at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, as part of my residency there.

Beacons Through Time is an expansive solargraphy pinhole photography project focused on East Coast lighthouses in the United States. Just as the sun charts a steady, constant passage across our sky each day, these lighthouses served – and many continue to serve – patiently along our coast and rivers, faithfully and continually shining for sailors and tourists alike.

This project explores the themes of patience, constancy, and rhythm by capturing these lighthouses in extreme long exposures. With the sun orbiting in grand arcs over the horizon month after month, these beacons through time have endured centuries of quiet and distinguished service.

Solargraphy is a niche form of pinhole photography that stretches single exposure images to an extreme exposure length. Relying on homemade cameras placed statically in situ for months at a time, low-sensitivity darkroom paper instead of film or a digital sensor, and a small pinhole instead of a glass lens, solargraphs miraculously allow practitioners to capture months or years of time in a single image.

Prints are available at the Primitive Pines Shop.

Marshall Point Light

Port Clyde, ME – c.1857

8 December 2022 – 6 May 2023; 149 days of exposure

Jutting out into midcoast Maine’s picturesque Port Clyde Harbor, Marshall Point Light boasts a scenic and accessible walkway, and was notably featured in 1994’s Forrest Gump.

Thank you to Nat of the Marshall Point Lighthouse and Museum for their gracious assistance in including Marshall Point in this project.

Pemaquid Point Light

Bristol, ME – c.1835

8 December 2022 – 6 May 2023; 149 days of exposure

Atop Maine’s dramatic and rocky shore, Pemaquid Point Light showcases the best of New England’s coasts, with knotty pines, a historic keeper’s house, and deep pillars of bedrock dropping from the cliffs into the sea below.

Many thanks to the town of Bristol for their permission to include Pemaquid Point in this project.

Bug Light

South Portland, ME – c.1875

6 December 2022 – 6 May 2023; 148 days of exposure

Portland Breakwater Light – known affectionately as Bug Light – is an architectural wonder in South Portland, ME. Designed by the architect who built the US Capitol, the light is uniquely styled with Greek columns along its exterior.

Huge thanks to Jack and Sue at the The Rotary Club of South Portland – Cape Elizabeth, who were kind enough to provide access to Bug Light for this project.

Portland Head Light

Cape Elizabeth, ME – c.1791

24 September 2022 – 19 February 2023; 148 days of exposure

Perhaps the most widely photographed lighthouse in the United States, Portland Head Light is Maine’s oldest, with construction ordered by President Washington. During the exposures, one of my solargraphs was discovered, opened, and replaced upside down, creating the radial symmetry seen in the last image in this collection.

My sincere appreciation to Cape Elizabeth Community Services & Fort Williams Park for their willingness to allow me to include Portland Head Light in this project.

Portsmouth Harbor Light

New Castle, NH – c.1878

25 September 2022 – 19 February 2023; 147 days of exposure

Nestled inside Fort Constitution and an active Coast Guard site, Portsmouth Harbor Light is New Hampshire’s only mainland lighthouse. Midway through these solargraph exposures, the December 23 Winter Storm destroyed the bridge to the lighthouse, causing the exposures to represent the bridge as a semi-transparent object. Note Wood Island Lifesaving Station and Whaleback Light in the distance.

Major appreciation to Jeremy D’Entremont of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Light for his incredible support of this project, both at Portsmouth Harbor Light and beyond. As mentioned, the walkway to the light was destroyed in the December 2022 Noreaster, and the Friends could use your assistance in repairs.

Highland Light

North Truro, MA, Cape Cod National Seashore – c.1857

10 December 2022 – 8 May 2023; 149 days of exposure

The oldest and tallest light on Cape Cod, Highland Light stands proudly atop a bluff on the northern end of the Cape.

 

Thank you to the National Park Service for their assistance in including Highland Light in this project.

Nauset Light

Eastham, MA, Cape Cod National Seashore – c.1923

10 December 2022 – 8 May 2023; 149 days of exposure

Originally located in Chatham, Nauset Light was moved in 1923 to its present location to replace the nearby “Three Sisters Lights”. It was moved along with its oil house again in 1995 in reaction to coastal erosion, to its present location in Nauset Beach. The light’s iconic red-and-white pattern is a famous icon of Massachussets license plates as well as Cape Cod brand potato chips.

Many thanks to Susan at Nauset Light Preservation Society and the NPS for their gracious cooperation in this project.

Southeast Light

Block Island, New Shoreham, RI – c.1875

22 October 2022 – 2 July 2023; 253 days of exposure

Sporting a unique gothic architecture, Southeast Light on Block Island has stood watch over Mohegan Bluffs for nearly 150 years. Thanks to the hard work of the Southeast Light Foundation and others, the light was saved from erosion and relit in 1994.

My Sincere thanks to Gerry and Lisa of the Southeast Light Foundation for allowing me to include this unique location in the project. Additionally, thank you to my friend Mike for assisting with retrieval.

New London Harbor Light

New London, CT – c.1801

10 December 2022 – 8 May 2023; 149 days of exposure

The tallest and oldest in Connecticut, New London Harbor Light is tucked into a quaint residential neighborhood on the town’s shore. These days, the light is maintained by the New London Maritime Society, which also maintains Race Rock and Ledge Lights.

Many thanks to Susan at New London Maritime Society for her early support of this project and permission to include New London Harbor Light.

Montauk Point Light

Montauk, NY – c.1796

10 Oct 2022 – 31 May 2023; 232 days of exposure

With a deep history and striking location, Montauk Point Light is one of New York’s finest sights. The light was constructed by Ezra L’Hommedieu under the direction of the young nation, and helped cement New York City’s dominant commercial status. Today, the light is the site of a fantastic museum, and is surrounded by rocky beaches and a state park brimming with military history.

Thank you so much to the Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum for allowing me to place cameras at this spectacular light. In addition, a huge and special thank you to Jason, whose early enthusiasm for this project and whose support in retrieving these solargraphs were a huge help to me.

Saugerties Light

Saugerties, NY – c.1869

2 October 2022 – 3 April 2023; 183 days of exposure

Narrowly escaping demolition in the 1960’s, Saugerties Light is a testament to the success of motivated individuals & organizations to preserve local history. Today, the lighthouse is not only a beautifully restored museum but also a B&B where guests can enjoy some of the finest sights of the Hudson River.

Thank you to Patrick at Saugerties Light, who allowed this light to be an early inclusion in this project.

Stony Point Lighthouse

Stony Point, NY – c.1826

2 October 2022 – 3 April 2023; 183 days of exposure

Situated on a commanding ridge above the Hudson, Stony Point Lighthouse is the river’s oldest. It occupies the site of the Battle of Stony Point, a key Revolutionary War Battle, and is a key part of a wonderfully managed and preserved NY State Park.

Many thanks to Site Management at Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, who kindly allowed me to include Hudson’s oldest light in this project.

Staten Island Range Light

Richmond Hill, Staten Island, NY – c.1912

8 July 2022 – 5 August 2023; 393 days of exposure

Serving as a range light for New York Harbor’s only shipping channel, Staten Island Range Light was built in 1912 by the US Lighthouse Service. Nowadays, the light is uniquely nestled within a suburban neighborhood atop Staten Island’s Richmond Hill, and has been under the stewardship of the National Lighthouse Museum since 2019.

Huge thanks to Donald and Linda at the National Lighthouse Museum for allowing me to include such a great lighthouse in this collection. The inspiration for the name of this project came from a standing exhibit at the museum, and it is absolutely worth a visit for anyone interested in lighthouses, maritime history, or a fun day in Staten Island.

LV-107 Winter Quarter

Jersey City, NJ – c.1923

9 September 2022 – 23 June 2023; 287 days of exposure

Now the headquarters of Liberty Landing Marina, LV-107 Winter Quarter spent its active days off the coast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina; Winter Quarter Shoals, Virginia; and finally seventeen miles off the coast of Fenwick Island, DE. Today, it is moored overlooking Lower Manhattan and the new WTC 1 building, gently swaying in the tides – note the blurred lightship in contrast to the sharp surrounding landscapes.

Thank you very much to Dan & the staff at Liberty Landing Marina for allowing me to include LV-107 in Beacons Through Time.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse

Sandy Hook, NJ, Gateway National Recreation Area – c.1764

20 December 2022 – 13 May 2023; 144 days of exposure

Built by a consortium of NYC merchants before the Revolutionary War, Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. With an impeccable 360* view from the top, the light continues to assist shipping traffic in and out of New York Harbor.

Many thanks to the National Parks Service for their administrative assistance and guidance that enabled me to include Sandy Hook Lighthouse in this project.

Barnegat Lighthouse

Barnegat Light, NJ – c.1857

29 December 2022 – 29 July 2023; 212 days of exposure

The second lighthouse build by George Meade, Barnegat Lighthouse is one of New Jersey’s most famous lights. The beacon most recently underwent renovation in March 2022, reopening in June 2023 with a repaired brick facade and new bulb.

Thank you very much to NJ State Parks and to the Dudley Family for their help in including Barnegat Lighthouse in this project.

Absecon Light

Atlantic City, NJ – c.1856

13 November 2022 – 15 April 2023; 153 days of exposure

The tallest in New Jersey, Absecon Light is uniquely situated between residential apartment buildings and towering casinos in the East Coast’s most popular gambling destination. The lighthouse itself predates most of Atlantic City’s development, and was built by George Meade, later made famous a Union Civil War General.

Major thanks to Jean and Milt of Absecon Lighthouse for their help in getting this unique light captured in this project.

Cape May Lighthouse

Cape May, NJ – c.1859

12 November 2022 – 15 April 2023; 154 days of exposure

Situated in New Jersey’s southernmost point, Cape May Light is situated in one of the state’s premier birding and dining locales. The light itself has visibility across the sound to Cape Henlopen and Lewes, DE on a clear day.

Thank you to the Cape May MAC and NJ State Parks for the permission to place solargraphs at Cape May Lighthouse.

Turtle Rock Light

Philadelphia, PA, Sedgeley Club – c.1887

26 November 2022 – 25 March 2023; 119 days of exposure

Constructed to warn steamship traffic on the Susquehanna River of its namesake rock, Turtle Rock Light was later enveloped by Sedgeley Club, the world’s first women’s boating club. Sedgeley Club continues to maintain the light as well as serve as a women’s social club.

Enormous thanks to Joan Wachlin and Sedgeley Club for their permission to include Turtle Rock Light in this project, and for the invitation to present this art at their 2023 Annual Meeting.

LV-118 Lightship Overfalls

Lewes, DE – c.1938

28 December 2022 – 20 May 2023; 143 days of exposure

The last riveted lightship built for the US Lighthouse Service, Lightship Overfalls served at Cornfield Point, CT; Cross Rip, MA; and Boston, MA, before being donated to the Lewes Historical Society in the 1970’s. The tireless efforts of the Overfalls Foundation have kept the ship in amazing shape, and it’s worth a visit for any maritime or history fan.

Huge thank you to John & the rest of the Overfalls Foundation for their gracious support of this project.

Concord Point Light

Havre de Grace, MD – c.1827

7 Jan 2023 – 4 June 2023; 148 days of exposure

One of Maryland’s oldest lighthouses, Concord Point Light stands proudly on the far northern end of the Chesapeake Bay. The original keeper’s house also remains, and both are right around the corner from the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum.

I’m very grateful to Carol and the Friends of Concord Point Lighthouse for allowing me to place solargraphs at this wonderful light.

Piney Point Light

Piney Point, MD – c.1836

22 Jan 2023 – 4 June 2023; 133 days of exposure

Constructed by John Donahoo, the same builder of the beacon at Concord Point, Piney Point light stands guard on the bay in southern Maryland. In the 19th century this location was a popular retreat for government officials, and hosted Presidents Madison, Monroe, Fillmore, Pierce, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Many thanks to the staff of the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and Historic Park for allowing me to include this historic locale in my project.

Assateague Light

Chincoteague, VA, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – c.1867

8 Jan 2023 – 27 May 2023; 139 days of exposure

With its iconic red-and-white stripes, Assateague Lighthouse is in an uncommon situation: rather than being threatened by moving coastlines, it has actually grown farther and farther from the inlet since it was constructed some 150 years ago.

Thank you to the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Chincoteague NWR for their assistance with permitting and placement of solargraphs at Assateague Light.

Cape Henry Lights

Fort Story, VA, Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story – c.1792/c.1881

10 Jan 2023 – 27 May 2023; 137 days of exposure

Two historic lights side-by-side adorn the coast of Fort Story, VA. Located on an active military base, the pedigree of Cape Henry Lights runs deep. The older light, dating to 1792, was the first public work funded by the US Federal Government. After cracks appeared in the mid-19th century, Congress approved funding for the new light to be constructed in 1881. The newer light remains an active aid to navigation, and the older light is open for tours run by Preservation Virginia.

Huge thanks to Rachel at Preservation Virginia for helping to make this happen and for her hands-on assistance with placement and monitoring. Additionally, thank you to all the base staff & personnel at Fort Story for their permission to include these lighthouses in the project.

Currituck Beach Light

Corolla, NC – c.1875

9 Jan 2023 – 28 May 2023; 139 days of exposure

Boasting a massive first-order fresnel lens and unpainted brickwork, Currituck Beach Light is a classically beautiful beacon in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. When built, its surrounding village was clear of trees and greenery, but the light and keepers house have since been ensconced by tall, elegant pines.

Thank you so much to Meghan at Currituck Beach Light for her permission, enthusiasm, and guidance for including this wonderful light in this collection.

Bald Head Island Light

Bald Head Island, NC – c.1817

21 Jan 2023 – 3 June 2023; 133 days of exposure

North Carolina’s oldest standing light, “Old Baldy” has guarded the mouth of Cape Fear river for over two centuries. These days, the light is accessible via ferry to Bald Head Island, a picturesque small marina town just off the coast.

Many thanks to the Old Baldy Foundation for their willingness to let me include NC’s oldest light in this project.

Charleston Light

Sullivan’s Island, SC – c.1962

19 Jan 2023 – 2 June 2023; 134 days of exposure

The last manned onshore light built by the United States, Charleston Light boasts a strikingly modern design, with a wind-resistant triangular design, unique lantern room, and elevator. When originally built, the light – known colloquially as Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse –  was perhaps too striking as both its 28mil candela light and bright orange daymark were toned down due to local complaints about the intense brightness of each. The light continues to shine as a key feature of Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park‘s Coast Guard Historic District, a densely-packed section of the part that also includes a USLSS lifesaving station, quarters building, and battery sighting station.

These images were taken as part of the Artist-in-Park program at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. I owe a huge thanks to Michelle and the NPS staff who provided me with this opportunity and who made my visits to the park so educational and fun.

Tybee Island Light

Tybee Island, GA – c.1773

14 Jan 2023 – 29 May 2023; 135 days of exposure

One of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the United States, Tybee Island Light saw rebuilds and changes throughout the Revolutionary War, American Civil War, and major hurricanes and an earthquake thereafter. The light has endured nonetheless. Restored meticulously in 1999, Tybee Island Light is a stunning example of American historical preservation efforts.

Many thanks to Nicole, Sarah, and Michael and the staff of Tybee Island Light Station and Museum for their willingness and assistance in including this historic light in Beacons Through Time.