Multigenerational Maine
Fishing Families


Peter Ralston photo

Isabelle Osgood, of Vinalhaven, was from one of the many multigenerational fishing families of coastal Maine. She lived most of her life on the islands of Matinicus and Vinalhaven. Islands were some of the earliest places in America to be settled by Europeans. The daughter of a fishing family and the mother of three fishermen, she lived a long life among her family and fellow fishing families.

The Osgoods arrived from Europe in 1631 at the fishing village of Ipswich, Massachusetts. They would find their way to the famed fishing opportunities on the Maine coast. Multigenerational family roots are both more common and deeper in coastal Maine than in most other parts of the United States. The Maine coast was seasonally inhabited by Europeans earlier than many other parts of what is now the United States. Those early European inhabitants fished, occupied fishing stations and trading posts and interacted with Native Americans.

Peter Ralston has been photographing the fishing communities of Maine since 1978. Some of his photographs of the coast are considered iconic images. For Mainers who have or remember the sage and wizened image of a most senior family member, this photograph of Isabelle Osgood could be in that category.

Ralston was on Vinalhaven photographing whatever he found of interest when he came upon Isabel after inquiring about a few dories down below her house. Isabel’s easygoing charm and conversation and Peter’s curiosity led to a tour of Isabel’s home and her husband’s fish house at the water’s edge, where this photograph was taken. Isabel’s husband had died a week earlier at the age of 92.

What makes this happenstance meeting of Isabelle Osgood and Peter Ralston more unique is that Ralston was on Vinalhaven that day being filmed as he went walking about, as has been his method, finding subjects to photograph. This biographical video of the photographer Peter Ralston becomes, about halfway in, a biography of one of Ralston’s primary topics –the Maine fishing family.

Ralston has spent his working life around cameras. Like most of us, that was not so for Isabelle. However, Isabelle’s poise, charm, wit and confidence before the video camera is extraordinary. The video provides biographical and visual context to the still photograph. Link to the Peter Ralston’s video here, the Isabelle Osgood portion of the video begins at 10:40 minutes.