A Block Island panorama

A new book of photographs
Fri, 12/21/2018 - 1:30pm

There’s a new coffee table book that highlights the beauty of Block Island not just in the summer, but in its year-round glory.

The book, simply called “Seasons On Block Island,” was compiled by island resident Bob Rule and photographer Concepta McNamara. The book features a minimal amount of text, often no more than just a few words, to describe each of the panoramic shots that McNamara took.

Rule said he has been coming to Block Island since the late 1960s and said the book idea came about because of a conversation he had with a cab driver.

“I sailed out with a friend when I was still in college, right before my summer job in 1969. I wasn’t going to come, but it was with my friend and his dad,” Rule recalled. “It was early in June at night.”

When he landed, Rule, who grew up in Manhasset Bay on Long Island, said, “I was transfixed. It was what a real New England place would look like.” He described Block Island as “Cape Cod 50 years ago.”

Rule was riding in a cab one day during the summer and the driver asked him “what the island was like in the off-season. He only knew it from the summer to the early fall. I always had that in the back of my mind.” While he is not a photographer, he realized that he had a friend, McNamara, who was.

“So I said, we’ll try to do it,” said Rule. Over the next year, McNamara would drive down from Needham, Mass., and go on little island trips with Rule, sometimes encountering an unexpected adventure, such as getting stuck in the car going up to Sandy Point in winter (resulting in a gorgeous photograph of the North Light framed by snow drifts). McNamara would also fly over at the drop of a hat. Rule called her once to say a snowstorm was on its way, and McNamara hopped on a plane from Ireland to capture it on film.

McNamara said that she took more than 1,000 images and that she and Rule would go over them to choose which ones would make the cut.

“That’s the hardest part, trying to figure out what works,” she said. The photos that ended up in the book were “particularly the ones that were really striking to Bob. He kind of knows what people like,” said McNamara. The photos show the island’s open fields, green and lush, Mitchell Farm under a pale blue sky, seals staying warm on the beach, and Old Harbor under a sunset, pink like the inside of a seashell, and a sky-view shot of one of the towering wind turbines. McNamara’s photos make the familiar seem unexpected.

“We would go over the pictures together. It was a lot of work but a lot of fun,” said Rule. “We were trying to depict the island in a nice way and give an idea of what Block Island is like in the off-season.”

Like Rule, McNamara has her own take on what parts of the landscape here remind her of.

“The stone walls,” she said, “remind me of Ireland. They remind me of home.”

Copies of the book or prints of the photos can be purchased by contacting Rule at robertjrule@gmail.com or McNamara at galwaygirlcm@gmail.com.