Who would have thought one photograph of three mysterious Longboat Key fishermen would get so much press? And the subjects weren’t even posing with a 60-pound mackerel.
Captured fishing off a public pier near Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub some four years ago, the men were watching their lures bob in the bay when Longboat Key resident and photographer Mary Lou Johnson spied them through the lens of her Nikon D2X camera.
It was 6:30 in the morning. The sun was rising behind Sister Keys, and Johnson was drawn to the men’s silhouettes and reflections. She got lucky with the composition. The men had arranged themselves symmetrically without even realizing they were being photographed.
The photo earned Johnson an award for “Best Depiction of Longboat Key” at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, a Division of Ringling College of Art and Design, and placed first at a juried art show at Art Center Sarasota.
It took Johnson a year to track down the fishing buddies, who she learned are snowbirds who meet every Thursday morning to fish off the north Longboat pier. Coincidentally, when she titled her photo “Morning Ritual,” she wasn’t aware of this fact.
“Their wives went nuts when they saw the picture,” says Johnson. “They asked for the rights to run the photo in their hometown papers.”
Now the photo is getting national attention in the current issue of Shutterbug magazine. Johnson, who submitted the photo months ago because she felt it had a “neat backstory,” hadn’t even opened the June issue of Shutterbug before a friend in Tampa called on Mother’s Day to tell her to turn to page 20.
“I had no idea it was going to be in there,” Johnson says.
The photograph, printed on a gallery canvas wrap and hung at the top of Johnson’s staircase, is one of the photographer’s favorite images — of which there are many.
A former family therapist, Johnson signed up for her first photography class eight years ago after her oldest daughter went off to college. She had always enjoyed documenting family vacations and milestones with point-and-shoot cameras but never seriously honed the skill until she was an empty-nester.
In 2003, she enrolled in digital-photography classes at the New York Institute for Photography and has produced a steady stream of work since, including portraits, still-life photography, architecture and non-profit work for Habitat for Humanity.
Still, the majority of her images seem to spotlight local sea life, birds and beachscapes.
“I’d say at least 85% of my photos are shot within a 5-mile radius of my backyard,” Johnson says. “I’m always running around Longboat Key on some kind of photography mission.”
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]