Working Waterfront, Photographic Portraits

Exhibition Date:  2009 

Working Waterfront, Photographic Portraits focused on local shoreside workers and their jobs: from fish cutter to purveyor, from welder to auctioneer, from lumper to inspector, as well as fishermen.

James Magazine, Fairhaven Ship Yard, #2009.1.14
James Magazine, shipyard worker, Fairhaven Ship Yard, #2009.1

Each person, each job, is vital to the daily operation of supplying seafood to market. All photographs were taken by Phillip Mello as part of a project he began early in 2008 and which continues today: to photograph the local fishing industry through the people who work in it. Mr. Mello knows these people and this place well, having worked on the waterfront for over thirty-four years, currently as plant manager at Bergie's Seafood. His photographs benefit from this closeness.

This exhibition existed in two separate locations: on the third level of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and in the Research Library Window Gallery on Purchase Street.

Reproductions of his photographs are available through the Whaling Museum's Photography Department by contacting


"Voices From the Port"

A series of short radio pieces based on oral histories collected as part of the Working Waterfront Documentation project. These programs, produced by the Working Waterfront Festival with the help of Naomi Arenberg, have aired on WBSM (1420AM).


1. Changes in Technology: The commercial fishing industry has seen incredible changes in technology, especially with regard to navigation.


2. Immigration and Ethnicity: Immigrants from around the globe have settled in New England's port cities, creating a rich mosaic of cultural influences.


3. Longshoremen: New Bedford longshoreman, Ray Houtman talks about the work of longshoremen who load and unload cargo from large vessels.


4. Storms at Sea: Commercial fishing is one of the worlds' most dangerous occupations in part because contending with unpredictable weather, frigid temperatures, icy waters and high winds are part of the job description.


5. The Future: Fishermen struggle with a host of challenges including government regulations, waterfront access and rising prices for everything from fuel and ice, to insurance and gear.


6. Unusual Catches: New England's fishermen harvest millions of pounds of seafood each year. Anyone who has fished for any length of time has a story about something unexpected that came up in the net.


7. Women in the Industry: Women are employed in many aspects of the commercial fishing industry- as captains and deckhands, in processing plants and shoreside businesses, as advocates, fisheries scientists and boat owners.

Last modified: December 6, 2011