Photographer Blamed for Destroying Iconic Landmark Proclaims His Innocence

After serving for decades as a point of interest for passing tourists and photographers in Inverness, California, when the shipwrecked Point Reyes boat burnt down recently, locals were upset and keen to find out who was responsible.

A shot uploaded to Instagram by an amateur photographer seemed to explain what had happened.


The image, which has now been removed, shows the wreck lit against a night sky by long bright lines of colour, seemingly the result of a long-exposure shoot produced by burning steel wool.

The photograph was taken on the night of Saturday, 20 February, while the fire that rendered the vessel structurally unsafe happened in the early hours of Monday morning.

It is thought that sparks may have smouldered on the surface of the boat for a day before eventually engulfing it in flames.

The National Parks Service will now arrange for the structure to be torn down.

Locals and photographers took to social media to express their dismay at the loss of the site, citing its importance for tourism and also significance to those who have grown up in the area.

They directed their anger at the photographer who had apparently caused the “death of a local icon.”

View this post on Instagram

"This is the end Beautiful friend This is the end My only friend, the end" — The Doors _______________________________________________ I took this 60-second exposure last November before a vandal sprayed graffiti on the hull on the West Marin icon that has been a favorite of artists, tourists and locals for decades. Unfortunately the Point Reyes was destroyed by fire Monday morning most likely by a steel-wool spinning "photographer". If you live in the Bay Area and have been on IG awhile you know this isn't the first fire caused by "spinning". What a shame. I'm headed to Inverness today to pay my respects. #sky_painters #sky_sultans #instagram_underdogs #click_n_share #wowshot #turkinstagram #sky_brilliance #ic_skies #fotofanatics_sky_ #photoarena #ptk_sky #best_skyshots #sky_captures #sky_perfection #sky_central #epic_captures #jaw_dropping_shots #igglobalclub #waycool_shots #weekly_feature #special_shots #ig_lebanon #sunset_vision #discoverearth #dream_image

A post shared by ed • silicon valley (@edraderphotography) on

Fire Chief Jim Fox told the Marin Independent Journal that they would not be pursuing the photographer, revealing that someone had called to clear their name. He said, “We won’t investigate something when there’s no evidence of a crime or actual damage. This was already a derelict vessel. I don’t know how you can damage something that’s already broken.”

After all the stories we have read about photographers putting the lives of humans and animals in danger, moving scaling tall buildings for unique shots and waiting until the last second to jump out of the path of a moving train, it’s not a huge leap to believe that a photographer may have staged the shot and neglected to think of the implications of sparks around dry wood.

And yet, the photographer—James Stewart—has come forward, protesting his innocence.

Stewart claims that he was taking photographs of the night sky when a group of kids gathered on the boat and started lighting steel wool and spinning it in the air.

He says that he took a picture as he packed up and left, later posting it to his Instagram account.

He learnt after that the boat had burnt and he was being blamed and, at the request of a commenter who said it reminded her of her father, removed the shot from his Instagram page.

Since then, Stewart has been bombarded with threats for destroying the boat. He said,

“I’m not getting credit for the picture, but I’m definitely getting credit for the fire.”

Unfortunately, it’s a case of his word against the silence of the mystery group of kids so even if he is telling the truth some will always have their doubts. It’s an unfortunate incident, though hopefully it will serve as a lesson on fire safety awareness.

Cover image #2: blue_vines_photo on Instagram.