Photographer Jay Fleming has a gift for telling the stories of the Chesapeake Bay and the people who call it home
Jay Fleming kindled his passion for photography at thirteen when he inherited his first camera from his father, former National Geographic photographer Kevin Fleming. And his fascination with fisheries ties back to his mom, a long-time employee with the Department of Natural Resources. But his eye for a good story and love for the Chesapeake Bay has always been part of his DNA, nurtured by a childhood on its shores and fed by an innate and boundless curiosity.
“Growing up in Annapolis, all of this stuff was so close to me, but I was not really aware of it until I dug deeper,” Jay says. “The changing culture, fisheries and environment of the Chesapeake Bay are major inspirations.”
Those passions all came together last fall with the publishing of Working the Water, his beautiful 280-page art-book tribute to the Chesapeake Bay and the lives of the watermen who make their living from it. Jay credits the three-year book project with shaping him as a photographer and a person, and he has formed bonds of respect and friendship with the watermen - and their families - who he met along the way.
“I knew I wanted to preserve this Chesapeake Bay lifestyle the best way that I knew how – photographically,” he says.
Well done, Jay Fleming, well done.
Photos and excerpts are from the SPRING chapter of Working the Water, documenting a time of transition on the Chesapeake as the waters warm and days get longer, the Bay comes to life, and watermen shift gears from oystering to fishing and crabbing. Visit www.jayflemingphotography.com to learn more.
Photo 1: Boats used to work the water are in need of nearly constant upkeep. Most modern workboats are constructed from wood, fiberglass and epoxy resin. Lucas Littlepage, Crocheron, Maryland.
Photo 2: Watermen spend months preparing pound netting gear for the spring season. Poke James, Reedville, Virginia
Photo 3: Haul seine nets, ranging from 900 to 1800 feet, are set in a semi-circle against the shore to catch blue catfish, common carp, and gizzard shad preparing to spawn in spring. Nets are then pulled in by hand. Buoys floating a haul seine net. Choptank River, Maryland
Photo 4: “Peeler” crabs ready to shed are kept in nearby floats so watermen can harvest them within 1-2 hours of shedding and prepare them for market. Russ Smith, Tylerton, Maryland
Photo 1: Pound netting poles are driven deep into the bay floor to anchor nets that await the early run of fish from the ocean into the Bay. John Grussing, Jr. and Dickey Manning, Jr., Chestertown, Maryland
Photo 2: Working the Water, by Jay Fleming published 2016 by Fleming Creative Firm, Annapolis, Maryland. Order online at www.jayflemingphotography.com
Photo 1: Bank trapping, permitted in limited areas, uses a lead and trap to catch blue crab as they move with the tide, harvesting a mix of hard shell crabs and “peelers” that are ready to shed. Sonny Benton, Wenona, Maryland
Photo 2: During crab scraping, a metal dredge is pulled though grassy beds in shallow water to harvest prized soft shell blue crabs, which are then sorted according to where they are in the shedding process. Morris Marsh, Smith Island, Maryland
Photo 3: Pound nets deliver the first run of fish in the spring, Atlantic menhaden, or “bunker,” a plentiful fish that supplies the bait market along the entire Eastern seaboard. Hoopers Island, Maryland.
Photo 4: In late winter, Fyke nets are set along the shorelines, in the tidal portions of the rivers and creeks, to intercept spawning perch in the early spring. Logan and Ryan Manning, Chester River, Maryland