Photographer Alessandra Petlin has spent 40 consecutive summers on Martha’s Vineyard at her family’s home on Wayside Farm in Chilmark.

“No matter where I am in the world, and I travel a tremendous amount, there has never been a year that I have not been here. I am like one of those birds that always comes home,” she said in an interview with the Gazette.

A New York Times photographer, Ms. Petlin is usually traveling the world. — Jeanna Shepard

Her brother, mother and father, who is also an artist, consider Martha’s Vineyard home too. Three generations of Petlins gather under one roof summer after summer to live, work and play together. Ms. Petlin reunites with friends who she grew up with on the Island, and maintains a relatively relaxed routine.

“It’s a lot of family time and a lot of beach time,” she said.

But this summer marks a first for the artist. She momentarily stepped out of her Vineyard routine Saturday night to celebrate her first gallery opening, ever.

“She has worked for The New York Times and has been all over the place, but has never done a show before,” said her father, Irving Petlin. On Saturday she showed a series of portraits at A Gallery in Oak Bluffs at an opening that also featured work by Carol Brown Goldberg, Choike Morais and Jo-Anne Bates. She also shared wall space with her father, a painter whose work hangs near the front door of Tanya Augoustinos’s contemporary art gallery.

Last summer marked the first time Mr. Petlin had shown his work on the Island his family has visited since the 1970s.

“I showed my work here and Tanya saw Alessandra’s photographs and started saying, even back then, ‘I would like to give her a show here,’” said Mr. Petlin. Clearly, Ms. Augoustinos appreciates the Petlins’ artistic gene.

Alessandra Petlin’s exhibit, Untitled Series Eleven, features portraits of 10 different African American women. Ms. Petlin said she street cast the project, meaning she scoured the streets of New York city, her home base, for women whose appearance and carriage convey depth and intrigue.

Alessandra Petlin. — Jeanna Shepard

“I tell them when I photograph them that all I need you to do is be present and let whatever feelings you have and emotions you have just live,” she said.

She shot the project over four weekends, and spent an hour in the studio with each of her subjects. “I rarely shoot in the studio. I use the environment to be a narrative that is behind the subject, but for this I wanted to do something that really just dealt with light and the person, and I had to make everything from those two elements,” she said.

The result is a collection of photographs featuring diverse, self-styled subjects that are tied together through the prints’ consistent lighting and formatting.

Ms. Petlin described the process by which she composed the project: “I worked on a lighting situation in my studio and had seen a number of women in the subway that I was so taken with — their presence, their strength and their very unique way of putting themselves together that I felt was very self expressive and telling of who they are. I found people in the subway, walking down the streets, malls, I went into some hair salons and asked if I could talk to some of the patrons,” she said.

She instructed her subjects to dress as they normally would, in clothing they were comfortable in and that made some statement about who they are.

“I didn’t want anyone to dress up for a photo,” she said.

Ms. Petlin points to one of her favorite subjects, whose name is Nyemah, and who in the photograph wears a red, flowery bra with lipstick to match. “I don’t know what she wears everyday. She wasn’t wearing that when I met her,” said Ms. Petlin.

Her expression conveys a vulnerability that defies the bold, confident statement she makes in her dress. “It tells you that she is able to live in both of those at the same time,” said Ms. Petlin.

In all, she cast 50 different women, a pool she edited down to 26, from which she selected 10 prints for the opening. She plans to continue the project, drawing from the plethora of interesting characters that roam the streets of New York city.

And her family will continue gathering on the Vineyard, over many years and photography projects to come, at the home the Petlins purchased in 1976.

“It was beautiful but run down,” said Mr. Petlin. “The grass was two feet high but we fell in love with it, and that’s how we got here. We are totally wed to summer on the Vineyard. Every summer, no matter where we are in the world, this is where our family gets together.”

“I couldn’t live without it,” agreed Ms. Petlin.