Photographer Blaise Hayward fell in love with the North Fork of Long Island 25 years ago. He’s still carrying a torch for this magical, out-of-the-way mix of farms, small towns, and saltwater. TABLE Magazine chatted with Hayward about how his fondness for the place came to be and why the attachment is so strong.
How did you fall in love with the North Fork? How did you find Suffolk County’s peaceful, bucolic sanctuary?
Blaise Hayward: We fell in love with the North Fork during our first weekend there. The saltwater, farm stands, abundance of great fresh-off-the-boat seafood, the sunsets… it was all just so beautiful. The fact that you could leave New York City and 2 ½ hours later be transported to this wonderland was unbelievable. We were hooked.
We were initially introduced to the North Fork by some old friends who rented a delightful cottage right on the water in the town of Peconic. Called Bell Buoy, it was a summer cottage with a big stone fireplace and a beautiful garden, like something right out of a movie. We stayed there for two summers, and then, when our son was born, we knew we had to get our own place. We’ve been in Orient for the last 23 summers, the last 15 renting a house whose owners are family now.
Why is your attachment so intense?
This arc of land is sandwiched between Peconic Bay to the south and Long Island Sound to the north. Being a person who feels that water feeds the soul, what more could I ask for? I am also a pretty serious bike rider now, and being able to ride to Greenport and take the ferry over to Shelter Island and ride 25 miles is a dream.
Are you sure you want to share this place with TABLE readers?
My wife, Rebecca, is standing beside me saying tell people not to come, so there is some ambivalence. I am very secretive and protective of the North Fork, because, like many places, it has changed dramatically over the years since we first visited––and particularly since Covid. A lot of people don’t really get it. They think that they can and should make it a place that they envision rather than the place that it is. It is NOT the busy, ritzy, overblown Hamptons and never will be. But we have seen a wave of South Forkers coming over and wanting to make it more like what they’re familiar with, which is such a shame.
There’s a scruffiness here, a sense of roots and authenticity, that comes from old farms and fisheries, from a way of life not altogether impressed with the “fancier” aspects of modern life. We like it that way.
How long have you been a photographer?
Thirty-six years, the last 24 in New York City. I feel fortunate to be able to capture people when they are at their most authentic. It’s not something I think about, and don’t have a formula when I am shooting. It just happens. I just try to let the pictures happen rather than forcing anything.
Portraiture is my first love, but right behind it is landscape photography. As an environmentalist, I see beauty in all aspects of our natural world. Whether I’m looking at a beautiful seascape or a briar patch, I am always in awe of nature and the colors, scents and textures that make up the natural world. I am currently photographing a series of dead and dried leaves that I find as beautiful in their own way as a fresh flower.
We’re running a serious risk of making people want to visit the North Fork here, but could you suggest ways our readers could best savor the North Fork?
Three experiences that I feel embody what the North Fork is all about would be:
A quiet, private Long Island Sound sunset (accompanied by a bottle of cold rosé).
A dinner out in Greenport followed by an outdoor music night in Mitchell Park.
Rent a cottage for a week in the off season and explore. You may never leave.
Interview by Keith Recker / Photography by Blaise Hayward
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