New England is such a gorgeous place that the publication of yet another photo book is not exactly earth-shattering news. But this one is different. The Lobstering Life (David Middleton and Brenda Berry, The Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vt., $19.95) is not just a pretty picture book of idealized landscapes. It documents the gritty work and, yes, the everyday drama of fishing for lobster. I feel qualified to make that judgment since I used to haul traps on Maine's Penobscot Bay.
Neither Barry nor Middleton was a fisherman when they took on this project to chronicle lobster fishing in the Gulf of Maine, but they were quick learners. The photos are extremely handsome because many of the scenes were shot in that wonderful spring and fall light when the sky is a limitless blue and the sun shines at a low, golden angle. If there's a fault to the book, it's the lack of photos showing fishing in the rain or before dawn in the fog.
But the book does reveal aspects of lobster fishing that I haven't seen since I left the boat to go to college decades ago. For example, most people never see a female lobster covered with eggs because no lobsterman would ever bring one ashore. (They go back in the water to replenish the stock.) But the image is enough to make even a fisherman acknowledge the crustacean is something more wondrous than a bug that can take your fingers off. Likewise, I haven't seen anyone stand up to pole a rowboat since my own fishing days--until I came across just such a photo and it made me smile. This book catches those details that fishermen take for granted and almost no one else ever gets to see.