Back in December, I started calling out Jonathan Liebowitz, oops sorry, (you can take the boy out of the neighborhood, but…) Jon Stewart of The Daily Show fame to cover my photo-documentary book Arn? Narn. and the plight of Newfoundlanders. So far he has successfully avoided responding to my posts, tweets, (yes, I tweet now! Can the end times be far away?) and general internet nuisance. He is indeed made of hearty stock. Must be that peasant, New Jersey upbringing. Well, that’s OK. You see I’m from Jersey originally too. Game on!
It has beeen a matter of an immovable object meeting an irresistible force. Something’s got to give, Jon. So why prolong this? Why incur extra expense avoiding the inevitable? Yeah, I get it. Madeleine Albright is better looking than me. Well, that may be a stretch. Michelle Obama IS better looking and better known than me, but don’t blame me because I married a civilian. (Hey, I was young and in love!)
But, and this is a big one, neither knows much about Newfoundland and why it’s important in our planet’s future. It’s fish are gone and before too long, so will the rest of the world’s wild fish stock. You like sushi? Not that much longer. Gefilte fish? I know you do…fuggedaboutit. It won’t work with farmed catfish. Yeah, it’s THAT serious. So what are you waiting for?
Here’s review that speaks about the book’s importance.
Arn? Narn. by Bruce Meisterman
First sentence: “When you’re twenty years ahead of the curve, it really doesn’t matter that you’re right.”
Publisher’s Summary: “Arn? Narn. is photographer Bruce Meisterman s first book. Arn? Narn. chronicles Canada s Newfoundland Island fishing culture on the road to its unfortunate demise. The black and white photography and interviews conducted by Meisterman showcase a community earmarked by minimalist living and deep community bonds, but broken by the cod’s disappearance.”
Bruce Meisterman is a photographer and the beauty of this book is in the photography. The text is sparse. Each chapter starts with a minimal yet informative narrative on topic and then the often full page photographs tell the rest of the story. Meisterman tells the story of the end of cod fishing in Newfoundland, the moratorium put on the industry in 1992 and the effect that has had on the fishing industry and the people. He explains that fishing is not just an industry to Newfoundlanders but a way of life born into these island people, a cultural heritage that defines their history, art, music, dance and craft. He paints a grim picture that is mostly blamed on over-fishing, government mismanagement, and greed. But as anyone knows who has visited Newfoundland (I haven’t) or knows a “Newfie” (I’ve known several) they can tell you that Newfoundlanders are not a downhearted people. They are down-to-earth people with no pretensions, full of the joy of life with a sense of humour and love of the folk arts born into them. Meisterman also tries to convey this in his book and succeeds to a point.
The choice of black and white photography both aids and hinders the author’s objectives. The desolate, stark countryside is powerfully represented in this medium, especially the winter scenes with the snow and ice along with the sandy shores of the lonely beaches and yet the beauty of the land is missing when we cannot see the green of the foliage and colours of wildflowers growing close to the ground on the rock. The death of the fishing industry is brought home with the b/w photos of clapboard homes, churches and graveyards and yet the life essence of the people is missing when we cannot see the bright colours used to paint houses, lighthouses, murals and folk art signs. Also the revelry of a kitchen party is missing when shown in black and white and yet the contrast between the joy of the people and the poverty of the economy is marked in this medium. An enchanting book with a sad tale told with optimism, but one that does not end on a sad note.
“Even now, Newfoundland is moving into its new reality…The Newfoundland spirit is anything if not indomitable. A people who came to live at terms with the sea will find their way here as well.”
Review by: Nicola Mansfield
C’mon, Jon. You know you want to do this. I can be on the next plane. Just call.