I live on the Ipswich River, a thoroughfare for clammers making their way out to the mudflats. I can hear the whine of the engines on their small boats before they chug into view, one or two clammers per vessel, hunched against the cold. Often, they pass by at dawn, and just as often at dusk: Their lives depend on the ebb and flow of the tides.
Low tide is when they work—digging hard in the sticky black mud regardless of sleet, snow, wind, bugs, or brutal heat. Clamming is not for softies, of body or mind. It requires physical endurance and psychological self-discipline.
Here, in Ipswich, Mass., clamming is one of the oldest economic enterprises, bestowing the community with its well-earned nickname, Clamtown. Its bivalves are famous across the country.
At a time when so many jobs are becoming automated, shipped to other countries, or swallowed by monopolies, clamming remains one of the few types of work individuals with drive and an independent spirit can still find: There are no degrees required and no bosses to report to.
This collection of photos is a celebration of Ipswich clammers, a mostly unseen corps of workers whose grit I deeply admire.