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Front Runners: Harbor Master

Karen Cakebread

At a time considered the apogee of competitive and leisure yachting—the early 20th century—and in a mecca of American boating—Marblehead, Mass.—Willard B. Jackson would take his unusual-looking motor launch out to photograph every significant boat he encountered, from the steam and sailing vessels that populated the yacht clubs to his neighbors’ tiny dories. Jackson’s tricked-out craft had an elevated canvas cover protecting the forward interior from the direct sun and a black tarp at the stern that covered an enormous bellows camera mounted on a tripod. Using glass-plate negatives, the same technique employed by Mathew Brady during the Civil War, Jackson spent about 40 years, from 1898 to 1937, honing his skills. The rich detail of the photographs attests to his mastery of darkroom technique.

 

More than 50 of these images will be displayed May 20 through January 21, 2007, at the Peabody Essex Museum (978.745.9500, www.pem.org) in Salem, Mass. The Yachting Photography of Willard B. Jackson is culled from the museum’s collection of more than 1,200 Jackson prints.

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