Written by Elizabeth Lanza Friday, 02 July 2010 00:00
Joan Harrison, a longtime resident of Glen Cove, has created her second photographic history of her beloved town in the book, Glen Cove Revisited. Through the images of this book, Harrison explores the history of the area, focusing on the rural and industrial roots of Glen Cove. The photographs revisit the waterfront and the old hotels of Glen Cove as well as the residents of the patrician and working class.
Harrison is a photographer with a great interest in vernacular photography and visual history. She has been photographing historical buildings and capturing the changes that have taken place in Glen Cove over the past 10 years in a series called What We See Where We Live.
Harrison explained that her interest in photographic history began after September 11, 2001, as she found herself photographing monuments in people’s backyards and she said that it “kind of morphed into realizing that everyday things that I loved were disappearing.” She began photographing everything in her immediate area that she loved. She then began to be interested in the stories of these photographs, asking herself where it all began.
Arthur Leipzig, an internationally acclaimed photographer, became a mentor to her and remains a great source of inspiration for Harrison. He is in his early ‘90s and continues his work as a photographer in Sea Cliff.
After her highly acclaimed first book, Images of America: Glen Cove, published in 2008, Harrison’s readers wanted more and she answered with Glen Cove Revisited. When approaching the second book she found herself with “lots of information that I couldn’t fit in the first one.”
The history of the book starts in 1834 when “[The area of ] Glen Cove was [originally] named Glen Cove” says Harrison, “with more pictures of things that people will recognize.” She wanted to include everything that people asked for in Glen Cove Revisited.
Harrison began her research at the Robert R. Coles history room in the Glen Cove Public Library. It was an excellent source for the early history of how the town evolved, but Harrison realized that she needed more. She said that she wanted to find more about the ethnic communities and how it all fit together with the industrial communities. When looking for more details on the Italian and Polish communities she needed “to dig” a bit deeper. She found help in friendly faces that allowed her to search their “amazing photo albums.”
Harrison illustrates “the heart of the Gold Coast” only as insiders know it in Glen Cove Revisited. Photographs of millponds and barnyards, estates and factories, schools and neighborhoods, all make up this wonderful photographic history of one the most diverse and beautiful towns on Long Island.
Harrison could not pick a favorite photograph in Glen Cove Revisited, but said “I love them all for a different reason.”
Her favorite piece of history that she is “obsessed with finding out everything about” is the first great estate of the Gold Coast, Elsinore, in Shorecrest. Her favorite photograph is of Elsinore, however it did not make the book because it is being held in an archive in London.
When asked about her opinion of how Glen Cove has changed she answered, “history constantly repeats itself…we should be learning from it.” She is skeptical of new buildings that might be constructed on the waterfront, as she feels that it could change the rural character of the Gold Coast.
Harrison is a professor of Art at the C.W Post Campus of Long Island University. She currently teaches courses in digital images, foundation in art and independent study projects. She said she doesn’t use much of her work in her classes but is “more interested in their work.”
Harrison is on the board of the North Shore Historical Museum and serves as historian for the Landing Pride Civic Association. When she is not photographing, researching or teaching, she enjoys drawing, making collages and printing in her studio. Her photographs and collages have been displayed and published internationally.
Harrison’s family is full of artists. Her husband, Michael E. Ach is a photographer. Both of her daughters are artists as well. In the fall, they had a family show exhibit together displaying their many talents.
Although Harrison grew up in Garden City, her heart lies in Glen Cove. She hopes that through Glen Cove Revisited, she will inspire a strong sense of pride in the community among the young people as well as new immigrants. She also hopes that it will serve as a meaningful touchstone for residents whose families go back three or more generations.
Harrison is looking into doing the history of another town but the location is not known yet. Keep your eyes open for her next great success!