In this photograph sporties, or businessmen from New York City who took the “Fishermen’s Special” from Penn Station that arrived in Montauk at the crack of dawn, stand in quiet anticipation aboard charter boats about to embark from Union News Dock. They will try their luck in Montauk’s notorious fishing grounds, fervently hoping to return home later that evening with a large bag of fish packed in ice.
Ralph George donated this image, which is scanned. We aren’t sure where it came from, but it appears to have been published or reproduced from another picture. It’s too bad we don’t know who shot this scene, because this photograph is a mini masterpiece, reminiscent of Alfred Stieglitz’s The Steerage. In “How The Steerage Happened” (taken from Steerage Wikipedia reference: Twice a Year [8–9]: 175–178), Stieglitz describes “the white drawbridge with its railing made of circular chains – white suspenders crossing on the back of a man in the steerage below, round shapes of iron machinery, a mast cutting into the sky, making a triangular shape…I saw shapes related to each other. I was inspired by a picture of shapes and underlying that the feeling I had about life.”
One sees the same kind of composition and could paraphrase in Union News Dock, Fishing Fleet: “On the Rex I saw a man focused on assembling his fishing pole, and in the boat in front a woman in a flowered skirt and plaid coat was sitting, centering the image. In the rear, a ramp stretched white from ship to pier, connecting customers to the Mary Edwards.” After The Steerage, it became accepted that some documentary photographs could also embody artistic qualities. Union News Dock, Fishing Fleet belongs in that category.