Artist Maggie Shannon talked to us about some of her images, the reasoning behind her nature photos, and her project ‘Swamp Yankee’ that captures scenes from a shark fishing tournament.
Some of Maggie Shannon’s photos may be shocking to non-sportsmen. Her work depicts a rawness to angling and shark fishing, and consists of haunting portraits, desolate landscapes, and a shark fishing tournament. We caught up with Maggie to talk about her inspiration for her work.
Born in Boston, Maggie has lived near the sea on the East Coast her entire life. Her family eventually settled on Martha’s Vineyard, which spurred a deep connection with landscape.
I grew up in a place that was full of such natural beauty and many of my projects focus on sharing that and the people that live in it with the world.
After living in New York City, she found a way to return to nature through her photographs.
The sea means something special for Maggie. “The ocean represents a sense of calm and tranquility but I find it amazing how quickly that can shift to something incredibly dangerous.” It becomes a strong symbol in Maggie’s photographs. Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, she would frequently witness angling tournaments and shark fishing tournaments. She has attended the Monster Shark Fishing Tournament since she has lived on Martha’s Vineyard, and was able to photograph the event when it was held in Newport, Rhode Island.
The event does seem like a bloody affair, but it’s hard to view the Monster Shark Tournament purely as a ‘massacre’. Seeing a marine biologist hack a shark’s head off from its gills down is brutal, but there is also something terrifyingly beautiful about it. Looking at these fish up close shows not only their strength but also their fragility. And especially after meeting the family that has organized the tournament for the last 28 years, I felt even stronger that the event was something more than just a spectacle. Remembering the tie-dyed, Birkenstock-ed protesters of Martha’s Vineyard fighting with the tournament staff made it difficult to document the event as an impartial bystander, but my nostalgia and awe at the beauty of the 400+ pound creatures make it hard to look away. By bringing these apex predators up from the deep, the fishermen are showing us something out of our own world, and that moment should be treasured, if carefully critiqued.
She titled her project, “Swamp Yankee.”
Maggie also started taking a lot of portraits in graduate school when her professor told her to do something that terrified her. She is naturally shy and meeting people to ask to take their photograph was the perfect challenge. Now she loves taking people’s pictures and hearing their stories.
Maggie Shannon’s photographs have a raw and desolate feel to them which make them more realistic. She captures the natural element to real people’s lives who are connected to the sea and nature.
Her talent as a photographer is clear, and if you want to see more of her projects depicting American landscape and lifestyle, visit her website.