Liza Gershman and Carrie Culpepper are authors of the newly released book, Nantucket: Classic American Style 30 Miles Out to Sea. We spoke with them about their inspiration for their book, and their journey capturing and writing about the style and spirit of islanders.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book?

We both fell in love with the island, its beauty, lifestyle, and community of interesting and entrepreneurial people. When Liza and I met we connected on the fact that of all the books written about Nantucket, most focused on history or nature, but none had covered the lifestyle in all its beachy, nautical, preppy, outdoorsy, philanthropic wonderfulness.

Can you share with our readers a little more about classic American style and why you chose to document it on Nantucket?

Nantucket is a jewel box of classic style. The lifestyle lends itself to docksiders and boat totes, blue blazers and colorful sundresses in a way that’s authentic and easy, not forced in an aspirational way like you might see in other places. There are people on the island who’ve developed their personal style and lifestyle based on weather and sport and fundraisers and necessity over generations—and they happen to beautifully exemplify classic American style. 

Can you share with our readers a little more about classic American style and why you chose to document it on Nantucket?

Nantucket is a jewel box of classic style. The lifestyle lends itself to docksiders and boat totes, blue blazers and colorful sundresses in a way that’s authentic and easy, not forced in an aspirational way like you might see in other places. There are people on the island who’ve developed their personal style and lifestyle based on weather and sport and fundraisers and necessity over generations—and they happen to beautifully exemplify classic American style. 

Liza Gershman and Carrie Nieman Culpepper

Liza, your images are beautiful. Can you tell us a little more about your photography and what your goals were when shooting this book?

Thank you so much. It was essential to us that the images tell the Nantucket story as much as the text. We carefully thought about topics that we would describe in prose versus imagery that was compelling enough to share the essence of the island in a single frame. Including photographs of multi-generations was as essential as including people from every walk of island life. Texture is a large part of Nantucket decor, down to the cobblestone streets and ruddy shingle exteriors, so capturing that was as necessary to inform the reader’s eye as anything and everything else. It was a joy to photograph a place and people that I hold so dear to my heart. 

Did you come across any unforeseen challenges? What about photo shoot miracles?

The biggest miracle was the last day of the season! I’d really wanted to do something special with the word Nantucket and had been dreaming of photographing the lifeguard staff. Of course, because they manage many beaches and are absolutely essential all day on the job it was quite difficult to schedule. At last, the season had slowed down and we had about 17 minutes to get everyone onto the sand spelling out the beautiful island name. So much thanks to Aiden Bourke, our wonderful intern, for his help with that!

 

Carrie, we loved reading through your and Liza’s stories. What were some stories that stand out to you from your research and writing?

I loved the poetic stories of people like artist Melissa McLeod, who had been sailing around the West Indies when she sailed into Nantucket harbor and jumped ship to stay. Many islanders talk of being drawn to the island by unexplainable forces. As someone said, the island repels people who don’t belong, but things fall into place for those who are destined to be there. Jean Roux, one of Liza’s interviews is an island environmentalist, who found a bike, job, and house in the span of an afternoon when she arrived. For her, the island was meant to be. That magic alchemy rang true for us and this book project as well. 

We also appreciate the determination of Nantucket’s many entrepreneurs, who must work hard during their very condensed earning period, such as Captain Jim Genthner who runs tours on a beautiful sailboat he built and aptly named The Endeavor. There is a widespread feeling that it is a gift to be on Nantucket and most everyone works very hard, not only to be there, but to make it a culturally rich place, and to uphold its history and landscape. Not many places in the world have such passionate guardians. 

Did you learn anything that surprised you along the way?

The island’s long history of female entrepreneurship dating back to the whaling days when women ran the island while the men were out to sea for years at a time. The island continues to be full of women-run businesses from shops, to artists, hoteliers, and restaurateurs and they feel a comradery with one another, and a connection to that incredible 200-year legacy. 

Also, the island’s early history of Quakerism, which served as a breeding ground for a leading suffragette and female scientist, and laid the foundation for today’s progressive social landscape on the island. 

 

Will you be hosting any book events?

We have begun a “Nantucket Talks” Instagram Live series of interviews with some of the influential and interesting people in the book. And plan to have a few other virtual events through the summer. Sadly, we had to cancel a whole host of events we had planned along the East Coast and on the island this spring/summer. We are postponing our live events to this winter and summer 2021.  

The book is available for presale on Amazon and at the island bookstores (and bookstores across the country).

Follow the authors on Instagram at @nantucketclassicstylebook
@culturefixed and @liza.gershman

 

Now available to order on Amazon