“‘I knew the Islander was coming into the harbor and I had thirty minutes to plant myself in the right spot on Packer’s dock. I was using a long lens and I waited for the boat to appear. When I started shooting I thought, ‘If only I could have one blink of sunlight. On the fourth shot out of five, it [the sun] broke through the sea smoke.’ The result is the classic shot of a classic vessel emerging from stormy skies and seas, mystical and majestic. It has become Jeff Serusa’s signature work.” — Karla Araujo, Vineyard Style

Jeff Serusa spent his childhood on Martha’s Vineyard. In the early 1970s, at 22, Jeff headed across the Atlantic and worked on water development projects in the north and western countries of the African continent. Photography was a passion even then, and during the following twelve years, he traveled with a complete darkroom wherever his work took him in Africa. Each Saturday (designated as his developing day) his staff would bring him a block of ice to keep the photography chemicals cool enough to remain effective.

When he returned to America and began his well-drilling business in 1984, he put photography aside.

Twenty years later, life changes and the tenacity of an artist’s passion prompted Jeff’s return to the magic of the lens.

Autumn Light wooden boat copy

His early work on the Vineyard is similar in tone and topic to his contemporary work, and showcases the Island’s timeless beauty – a quality that thrives in spite of development and popularity.

At sunrise each morning for a full calendar year, Jeff was poised on the shore of Vineyard Haven Harbor, sometimes photographing, sometimes absorbing . . . planning . . . waiting. On the morning of January 10th 2004 at 4°F with a 45 mph wind, the harbor was filled with sea smoke, created when extremely cold air flows across warmer water, resulting in an eerie dreamscape. Knowing he had only a brief half hour before the ferry Islander would arrive on its earliest morning run from the mainland, Jeff raced to his studio to choose a camera, lens, and film. Equipped with a long lens, he returned to Packer’s Dock. Standing out of the wind behind the fuel house, and hoping for a ray of sunshine, he took several poor shots. By sweet chance or welcome design, the elements complied, and for two seconds, the sun illuminated the pivotal moment in Jeff’s career.

The following summer, Jeff printed out a single shot from that serendipitous morning to donate to a local fundraiser. The Granary Gallery picked it up, and they became the commercial outlet for “Seasmoke.”

 

Seasmoke-steampship-authority-marhta's-vineyard-islander copy

When the photograph received acclaim and popularity, Jeff quickly learned that it was essential that the behind-the-scenes prep work for displaying photographs be done in-house. And thus, his print shop, formally “Nobska Art,” (but, what Jeff fondly calls “The Factory,”) was born. Soon after, natural progression warranted opening a gallery. Jeff overhauled the space at 34 Beach Road which had once (circa WWII) been a retail shop for Charles Van Riper ship models.

Seaworthy Gallery opened off-season in November of 2008 to a huge and appreciative home-town crowd who gathered under a tent to celebrate with oysters on the half shell while appropriate libation and well-deserved compliments flowed. The deep Madagascar and deep red walls highlight Jeff’s photographs, offering the viewer an intimate relationship with the Vineyard beyond the expected two dimensions.

Nobska Art currently provides printing services for 60 artists. Seaworthy Gallery, having enjoyed a glorious summer season, continues to showcase Jeff’s magnificent work.