institute for documentary studies

{the work: Brian Gersten}

The Importance of Being Ernest


Lighthouses have been a fundamental part of maritime culture for millenniums, yet lighthouse keepers are now a thing of the past.  All lighthouses in the U.S. have been automated, so there is no longer a need for permanent keepers. What is a lighthouse keeper without a lighthouse?  How does one find purpose in life when their livelihood has been erased?


In the 1950s and 60s, Ernest DeRaps worked as a lighthouse keeper throughout Maine.  It was a lifestyle that is now unknown to most.  Ernest was responsible for the safety of countless ships, he endured violent and destructive storms, and while on island lights he was utterly isolated.  Now, at 84-years-old, he lives day-to-day with his wife Polly, painting lighthouses in order to preserve an oft-forgotten history.


About Brian:


Brian Gersten graduated from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in 2012. He is currently working as a freelance writer and documentarian in Chicago, IL.

Brian Gersten

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