The Art of Fishing

Photographer and fisherman Ben McCormick turns his lens on a surreal watery world.

Ben McCormick
Ray Ewing

From a young age, Benjamin McCormick of Oak Bluffs knew that his life would include the ocean in some way or another. From summers sailing around Cape Cod and the Islands on a catboat with his parents and two brothers, catching minnows from the shore as a kid, and fishing in the Island’s annual Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby for more than thirty years, the water has always been a means for him “just to get away.” 

As a high school student, Ben spent his life’s savings on a camera and traveled to Africa, where he fell in love with nature photography. Back home again, Ben discovered he could tie this new-found interest in with his lifelong hobby – fishing.

“When I would be out there...see[ing] these fish blitzing right next to the boat, I realized I could be getting some fantastic shots,” he recalls.

Although he graduated college with a degree in English literature, Ben chose an artistic path and became a full-time photographer, with a focus on fish, wildlife, and nautical scenes.

Active, close-range photos like Tuna Trip, characterize the work of Ben McCormick, whose business combines his two passions – fishing and photography.

Sometimes, however, he finds it hard to balance fishing and photography. “The hardest part is always putting down the rod and picking up the camera,” he says ruefully. “I have had many of those painful moments.”

An up-close-and-personal point of view characterizes Ben’s fish photography, and whether he’s scuba diving or photographing over the side of his boat, Ben’s style is to capture fish in visually interesting positions. The artist then uses digital touch-ups to further enhance the otherworldliness of his underwater subjects.

More recently, Ben has been shifting his gears to even more abstract photography that he produces in his basement studio. Whereas he once found himself in pursuit of “tack-sharp, crystal-clear pictures,” he now purposefully blurs the images or gets so close to his subjects that it’s hard to recognize exactly what is being photographed.

One of his current favorite images, titled Purple Passion, captures a pile of rounded, richly colored wampum. “I couldn’t find any really nice wampum 
shots anywhere, and so I thought that I would do my best to do it,” he explains. 
In order to produce a crisp, color-drenched shot of the wampum, Ben used a special technique to take away the chalky appearance of the shells, with low light to bring out the color.

Backlit Beach Glass, a study of found pieces.
Ben McCormick

Ben’s photography business has 
numerous Island outlets. You’ll see him at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals, the Chilmark Flea Market, and the Featherstone Flea and Fine Arts Market. The Copperworks in Menemsha and the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown exhibit his photography; Ben’s fishing mentor, Cooper Gilkes of Coop’s Bait & Tackle in Edgartown, sells a selection of prints. His work is available online at, where customers can select print size and framing options. Ben says the Vineyard Artisans Festivals, because of their traffic and art focus, are his most successful venues.

With a young family, Ben finds it harder to find the time to get out in his boat to capture fish shots, but he has no plans to give up his photography business.

“The photography thing has been such a passion,” he says. “I love when you take something totally mundane, and you make it interesting.” So be on the lookout for Ben’s next photography venture – rocks of the Vineyard.

Other Island artists who find
 inspiration in the world of fish:

Kib Bramhall. This well-known landscape painter’s work depicts quiet, evocative Island scenes that showcase his evident love for nature and fishing. (

The Copperworks. Artist and fishing charter captain Scott McDowell crafts copper wall hangings, chandeliers, and light fixtures at his Menemsha shop. (

Warren Gaines. Intricate pastel studies of 
native fish, set against stark black backgrounds, contrast with serene fishing and water scenes. 

Janet Messineo. Derby grande dame Janet 
Messineo creates wearable jewelry from actual fish. For her minnow pins, Janet preserves the tiny, shiny fish for longevity. (www.vineyardsurf

Andrew Gordon Moore. Black sea bass 
underwater, herring in a basket, and a blitz of albacore populate the work of realist painter Andrew Moore in his Oak Bluffs studio. 

Lisa Strachan. Vineyard artisan Lisa Strachan makes fine porcelain and stoneware, decorated with images of octopi, sea horses, and starfish. (

Tuck & Holand. Anthony Holand crafts his metal sculptures, weathervanes, and chandeliers with a sense of fluidity. From a single codfish weathervane to an “articulating school of bluefish,” it seems the fish are literally swimming in the wind. (