Peter Fahrney developed a passion for photography 60 years ago when a classmate took his picture and then showed him the back end of the craft.
“There was kind of a serendipitous moment in college where a friend of mine took my picture and then invited me into the darkroom. He developed the film and made the print, and I was hooked when I saw the image come up,” Fahrney said. “I’ve been taking pictures ever since.”
Fahrney’s other love through the years has been the Middle Potomac River around Colonial Beach where he spent all of his summers growing up.
Fahrney combined the two passions for his exhibit, “Essence of the Potomac,” which the Artists’ Alliance is now featuring at Jarrett Thor Fine Arts in Colonial Beach.
Divided into three sections, the exhibit shows waterscapes along the Potomac River, photographs of an old sailing ship and pictures of the watermen who make their livelihood on the river harvesting fish, crabs and oysters with their pots and nets.
Fahrney, who retired as an emergency physician in Bethesda, Md., 20 years ago, said he’s always had a liking for the watermen and that’s why he zeroed in on them when he moved back to Colonial Beach after retiring.
He pulled from his work of many years of photographing the watermen to make the exhibit that will run until Dec. 8 at the gallery.
“I’m fascinated by that way of life, and it’s going away,” Fahrney said. “Fewer and fewer people earn their living on the water for various reasons, and I’m fascinated by the people who still do, so I make an effort, to not only document those, but to create a nice picture that puts them in a positive light.”
Fahrney said he hopes people who visit the exhibit like his photos, but more importantly, he hopes the photographs help people learn and understand a bit about the watermen.
He said their work forms the watermen and their character inspires his photography.
“They’re a different breed,” Fahrney said of the watermen. “They’re independent, and they’ve got their ways and their methods of doing things. They are conscious of the conservation of the waterways. Most watermen are really sterling, down-to-earth people.”
Fahrney also admires the toughness of the watermen.
“They work all seasons. Some of them go out in their boats and cut ice to tend their nets. It’s hard work. They’re a hardy bunch,” Fahrney said. “They wouldn’t do it unless they loved it.”
Fahrney’s said the other photos in the exhibit come out of his fondness for the river.
“To me, it’s always beautiful. It’s never the same. It’s always changing. It’s very relaxing, and at times, it’s very exciting. I’ve always loved being here,” Fahrney said.