The choices we make in life and how we choose define our character. There aren’t many jobs harder than working in the commercial fishing industry, where a wealth of character is on display. Last July Jim Purdum got to do what he loves best, document people who live and enjoy life to the fullest. Jim spent a week in Alaska photographing various folks he met around the small coastal town of Cordova and the vast Bristol Bay region as part of an ongoing personal project that explores the theme of choosing to “get off the treadmill of life.”
Most of the locals worked in the fishing industry and lived in the supporting coastal seaport towns. Their talk, their faces and open manner made clear how much they loved the hard lifestyle. They veered away from the traditional arc and would not change it for anything. Jim had the opportunity to tell the story of these people and capture real-life salmon fishing in action. Just fitting gear on a boat can be a “big ask,” as space is reserved for the catch and equipment. But in Jim’s case Captain Fran Kaul, a female salmon fishing-boat captain of the Janet Elaine, wanted him to photograph and film her and her crew to refresh her online marketing and imagery as a showcase for her sustainable salmon-fishing business. She sells the best of her catch directly to consumers under her own label Misty Fjord Seafood. Jim’s dynamic storytelling was the ideal way to show the intense physical labor, long hours and strong camaraderie in this dangerous line of work.
Jim lived the sea life for several days, slept in a bunk in the hull of the boat with three deckhands in a tiny curved “bed” and was grateful for the spot. On the open water, you are always susceptible to the elements and motion sickness is a big one. Staying upright and trying to keep the camera level as he looked through it was a pretty tall order. Using a small tripod and a foldable reflector, Jim’s approach was to shoot the action around him in natural light with DSLR cameras and lenses for both stills and video.
Nothing to bog down the process. Like his Alaskan subjects, Jim is not afraid to follow a different path to follow the story. Now when we dive into that delicious piece of salmon, we will always remember how it got to the table and be grateful to Captain Fran and her crew for their hard work catching it and to Jim for showing us how they do it. Coastal Alaska Living will appear in print and the Internet and is part of an ongoing personal series.