Photograph by Doug Kuntz, which was also part of the original exhibition.
With remarkable foresight, Doug Kuntz’s original 1983 exhibition documented the lives of commercial fishermen in the 1980s, capturing a way of life that is now inseparably linked to Long Island’s cultural heritage and stands as a poignant testament to the enduring spirit of our fisherman. Alongside Kuntz’s photographs, the”Finest Kind” also features works by renowned photographers Dan Budnick, John Chao, Lynn Johnson, and Danny Lyon.
The premiere of this show in Albany in 1983 marked the beginning of a significant conversation aimed at reforming bass legislation, fostering a unique dialogue between fishermen and scientists. Following its initial success, the exhibition traveled to the Amagansett Schellinger House during the summer of 1984 before finding a permanent residence in the archives of the Marine Museum. In the spring of 2023, Stacy Myers, the Education Director at the East Hampton Town Marine Museum, and Tim Regan, a waterman and founder of South Fork Salt, began the meticulous task of organizing and cleaning the exhibit. As they began sifting through the pieces, community members were excited to reconnect with familiar faces in the photographs, sparking fond recollections of shared experiences and challenging days at sea. Encouraged by these responses, Stacy and Tim curated a select few images from the portfolio as tribute to the rich history, photographers, and individuals documented in this collection. Several of the images were included in the two-volume special edition of the book, Men’s Lives, signed by the author, Peter Matthiesen, will be available to view alongside the display.
Myers and Regan’s dedication and passion have breathed new life into Finest Kind allowing the community to reconnect with their roots. This is the first time in 40 years that most of these works are being displayed, providing the community with a space to share stories and celebrate the enduring legacy of the fishermen documented within its frames. Walking through the show with Stacy for the first time, Doug Kuntz was visibly moved as he reflected on the faces of friends who had passed away, emphasizing that while time may pass, their significance remains undiminished.
As Ralph Carpentier, marine museum curator in 1984, once remarked, “Although the photographs presented are indeed artful and powerful, they were chosen to be part of a larger message, not to celebrate the extraordinary ability of the individual photographers”– These images resonate deeply with the soul of the East End. The phrase “the Finest Kind,” synonymous with excellence and pride, encapsulates the ethos of these individuals who dedicated their lives to the sea. It’s a phrase used by watermen throughout the East Coast and fondly associated with beloved Stuart B. Vorpahl Jr., a staunch advocate for watermen’s rights and local water access.
We invite you to join us in celebrating and honoring
the legacy of these “Finest Kind” by attending our opening!