Peter Ralston has photographed the coast of Maine since 1978, drawn especially to the people and working communities that define coastal Maine’s character.


Artist’s Statement

My photographs are my statement.

I don’t pretend or aspire to be terribly intellectual about what I do. I just poke around the nooks and crannies of this coast, always with my camera. That’s about it. I’m not overly concerned about what I’m doing being considered “fine art.” As far as I’m concerned, I’m just storytelling albeit straight from the heart. These are the places I’ve been and people I’ve met, and sometimes there’s metaphor not far beneath the surface.


Bio

Peter Ralston grew up in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, worked for a decade as a freelance photojournalist, and then began photographing the coast of Maine in 1978, drawn especially to the working communities that define the coast’s enduring character. 

Instrumental in forming the Island Institute in 1983, Peter Ralston served as its executive vice-president until 2010. Until then he contributed most of the photography and served as art director for the Institute's Island Journal since its inception. He continues to spend as much time as he possibly can on and around islands.

His work has been reproduced in many books and magazines, featured repeatedly on network television and has been exhibited in galleries, collections and museums throughout the United States and abroad.

In 2003 Peter was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree at Colby College for his photography as well as his role as co-founder of the Island Institute.

Peter and his wife, Terri, opened Ralston Gallery in Rockport, Maine, in 2011, selling his photographs as well as the work of his lifelong friends, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. He is currently working on a major book about the Maine coast.

Although, as a young man, Ralston studied very briefly under Ansel Adams, he acknowledges the greater artistic influence of a lifetime of association with the Wyeths – close friends and incisive mentors.

Service, Past & Present

Island Institute - Co-founder & Executive Vice-President Island Journal - Art Director

Farnsworth Art Museum - Trustee

Maine Media Workshops & College - Founding Trustee

Herring Gut Learning Center - Trustee

Maine Lighthouse Museum - Founding Trustee

Maine Coast Artists, Rockport, Maine - Trustee

Maine Film Commission - appointed by Governor Angus King
 


New Work

After a six-year hiatus following a serious medical event in 1997, Peter didn’t pick up a camera for six years. You can read about that, and much more, in the article In a New Light, and watch the video in Peter’s Eye (below). New Work is what Peter calls most of his photographs made since January, 2004; they are an open edition of 17 x 22 inch prints.


Peter’s Eye

In 2009 Peter was approached by an independent film company that wanted to make a 16-minute documentary short about how he works. That effort, Peter’s Eye, was accepted into the Camden International Film Festival in 2011.

 
 
Like the good fishermen, I’ve had to know my territory and respect the rules, be ready to take a few calculated risks when it felt right, look people in the eye, keep the gear as simple as possible, get out early & come in late, watch the sky and, above all, respect the people and place where I work.

Like my fishing friends I have spent many long hours, usually alone, often with nothing to show for a lot of work but a sense of having been there and having tried, going over the same ground again and again, often disappointed, occasionally coming back with a worthy catch to show for the endless investment of what Melville referred to in Moby Dick as ‘Time, Strength, Cash and Patience.’
— Peter Ralston

Sightings

The award-winning book Sightings was published in 1997 by Downeast Books and included photographs from the coast of Maine and working island communities. Although the book is sold out, a selection of the images within its pages are still available as limited edition prints, printed on 17 x 22 inch sheets. A number of these are now completely sold out.

This is the best work I’ve seen capturing the character of Maine’s working coast; it gave me goosebumps. Some of the pictures are of people and places I know well, and some are not, but all of them bring out the true character of the people and places they depict.
— David Cousens, President, Maine Lobstermen's Association
What an absolutely exquisite book!
— William F. Buckley, Jr.
A magnificent book...you’ve caught the play of light and seasons, the faces, waters, the authentic pull of Maine superbly, page after page. The book makes me want to pack or bags and head north.
— David McCullough
For anyone who knows the Maine coast, ‘Sightings’ will bring much nostalgic pleasure. For those who have not seen it, ‘Sightings’ will provide an irresistible lure.
— David Rockefeller, Sr.