Art around town

Keith Lang
Thu, 07/08/2021 - 6:00pm

Block Island is a place of beauty at every time of year. With the quality of light changing from season to season, the landscape is ever-changing.
It is, of course, the perfect place to take one’s camera “for a walk,” a veritable photographer’s dream. And so it was that one late afternoon a few weeks
ago, The Block Island Times took a walk with local photographer Keith Lang. We went to one of Lang’s favorite places – the Hodge property on Corn Neck Road. It’s a favorite for the variety of habitats contained there and the views of the North Light in the distance, and of the course the sailboats off the coast.

Lang is celebrating the twentieth year of his signature calendar: “Visions of Block Island in Photographs and Words.” In it he marks the changing seasons of Block Island with a separate photo taken for each month, and they all have been taken in the month they represent. Each picture is accompanied by a quote selected by Lang and longtime collaborator James Lindquist. The designer is Kristen Kiley and marketing and distribution is overseen by Clair Stover Comings.

Lang didn’t set out to become a photographer. Although he had a collection of slides taken in the 1970s, his real love, as a child growing up summers on the island, was exploring every nook and cranny Block Island had to offer. The island was wide open then, with spacious fields, and few houses. Residents would go “cross lots” as they say. Then came the pressures of development.

This led to an interest in conservation, and Lang was one of the original members of the Block Island Land Trust. When The Nature Conservancy opened its Rhode Island division in 1989, Lang was its first state director. The Block Island branch of TNC came about in 1991 and just a few years later, Lang was instrumental in bringing Scott Comings into the Block Island School to do educational programs that involved taking weekly field trips to all corners of Block Island and learning about the island’s geology, flora, and fauna.

Lang told The Times that by having Comings teaching in the schools, the kids of Block Island would come to think of themselves as “owning it” and therefore would continue to protect it. The thought of photographing the various Block Island scenes didn’t even occur to him until the late 1990s, when
he began writing “On this Island: The Block Island Trail and Nature Guide,” with Comings. Lang decided the book could use some photographs. And so he started taking some.
Although our walk was on a beautiful June afternoon, Lang took very few pictures. (We did both try to capture a black swallowtail butterfly to no avail.) He prefers early mornings or late, late afternoons when the light isn’t “flat.”
Although Middle Pond, at the bottom of the main trail at Hodge was glistening as the sun hit the tiny waves, Lang said it was a far more interesting setting in the early morning when the pond is full of birds.
The challenge of doing a calendar is getting an appropriate picture for each month, and with several years to go before retirement from the Champlin
Foundation in 2018, where he worked for 18 years after leaving The Nature Conservancy, Lang began making it a point to come out to the island where he had a second home, at least once per month. “The idea was to capture the essence of the island,” he says.

The 2022 calendar is now available on the island at Island Bound Bookstore, The Glass Onion, Lazy Fish, Spring Street Gallery, The Nature Conservancy, Historical Society, and The Block Island Times. It can also be found at the Farmers Market at the Littlefield Bee Farm table, and on his website: