Artist's Statement

Living on the Edge

I have been photographing at Roy Carpenter’s Beach, in Matunuck Rhode Island, since 2004. Roy’s is an
unpretentious beach community composed of 374 cottages on about 50 acres of land. The community has
existed since the 1920’s, first as a tent community. After the 1938 hurricane, it evolved into a cottage community
of very modest means. Some cottages were built of various structural elements found at the curbside or
Salvation Army. Others arrived on the tide, whole, having floated ashore after a storm. Most cottages were
just basic shelters that have been passed from generation to generation. So-called regular people summer
there, to enjoy the pleasures of the shore, away from the city. Life-long friendships, marriages and all manner
of relationships can be traced back to this community. It is a safe, delicious spot to raise kids, with its many
rituals and traditions that mark the summers. Where else, over the course of a summer, can you reliably
have a cakewalk, field day, July Fourth Pots and Pans Parade, Christmas in August, a tag sale, a penny social
and a shaving crème war?

Concurrently, however, the community has been losing its shoreline. Since 1939, at least 100 feet of its coast
have washed away as a result of periodic storms that beset the area. Gone are the large beachfront parking lot,
a shore road, and the wide, sandy beach. The general store was moved 100 feet back from the shore in 2005
and is once again, sitting on the beach that has receded yet farther. In 2011 when Hurricane Irene hit Roy’s,
albeit as a tropical storm, she eroded yet more of the beach. That brought the shore closer to the cottages than
it had ever been. Some marveled that the damage wasn’t worse, others ignored the obvious. Hurricane Sandy
came through at the end of October, 2012, and although not of hurricane or even tropical storm strength for
Rhode Island, three cottages washed out to sea, and three more were left teetering over the bluff, awaiting
demolition. The basketball court, well inland, became a lake, and every cottage on the waterfront on the east
side of the site was damaged. As bad as that was, in fact, Sandy gave Roy’s but a glancing blow. It could have
been so much worse. Clearly sweet summer reveries at Roy’s are numbered, limited by the ever-increasing
ferocity of ordinary, day-to-day wear-and-tear from increasing frequency of storms. Add sea level rise to that,
and tidal surge with the occasional hurricane and the future looks grim.

Roy’s it is a model of the way life at the shore in New England as it used to be: modest and inconspicuous,
in recognition of the power of the sea. It is one of few remaining places along the shore where life is simple, and
the luxury of being there is the reward. To while away an hour or day in this sweet little community is to lose all
track of the time… Yet it is on a collision course with the ongoing series of coastal storms and hurricanes that
are wearing away its shoreline. Because that simple, unpretentious way of life is baked into me, I can’t stand the
idea that it could disappear, leaving no trace behind. I am photographing this place, documenting it because
that is the only way I know to preserve it.