In case you’ve been under self-imposed exile, Corey Arnold is the US commercial fisherman come photographer, documenting the plight and poetry of the commercial fish trade.
He is represented by Charles A. Hartman Fine Art in Portland, Oregon and Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, California and Redeye Represents in Los Angeles for assignment work. His reflective photographs have been exhibited widely and published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Time, NY Times LENS, California Sunday Magazine, Outside, Esquire, Monster Children and Juxtapoz, among others. He’ s also published two books, including a monograph entitled Fish-Work: The Bering Sea in 2011. And now, his moody image is the best-selling, twice released Ocean print in the Stonemen Nature archives.
We sat down with Arnold to find out about the danger, romance and adventure of his work.
First, the image. How did that untamed churning sea shot come about?
“I was in the Netherlands and went out with a beam troller, fishing for flounder, out to sea for 8 days – bad weather came along – and I took the sea scape. I spend my life on boats and seen weather – its rare for it to come together where a wave peaks and there is amazing light – that shot resonated and I feel its lived a long life and appreciated by people on the web”.
That famous image that eventually ended up on our briefs has done the rounds, fuelled by its pensive popularity.
“I used it as promo for an exhibition I had in 2010 , Footwork in Europe, Charles Hartman gallery in Portland and a few others. People put it up on tumbler and it tumbled around. The band Volcano Choir happened to be at one of the exhibitions and used it for an album cover”.
Arnold tries to nail down the appeal.
“People are used to pictures of waves off the beach. Rough ones are completely different. Its the last thing people want to do and thats why its beautiful”.
Three days after this interview Arnold was off again on an Alaskan fishing tour, disappearing into that appealing, impenetrable abyss for months on end – and looking for the next round of imagery as he goes about earning his livelihood.
“It’s hard work packing the fish, but worth it. Gruelling 20 hour days after only a few hours of sleep, on repeat.”
“The periods when you’re making the most money on either fish or crab is when you work the hardest! Every fish is money in your pocket. You are sleepless, your brain doesn’t function properly and you cant react to a wrecking ball! In salmon fishing, you can easily overload the little boat and sink. Your face is covered in scales and soot, you are stung by jelly fish, sleeplessness and physical exertion.”
Still for him, this old-school trade maintains a shade of nostalgia.
“I want us to look back in the day of old fishermen and dories. What do modern day fisherman look like? Its a romantic period to capture.”
However, there is a deeper message to the work rather than just capturing history.
I want the audience to have a full sensory experience of what life is like for a commercial fisherman. People can look at it and think about their own lives – there is an environmental factor, sustainable seafood… People are drawn to the sea in general, it takes their mind away from where they are in the moment. It’s an escape. People can stare at a sea scape and find clarity in a way. There is something universal about the ocean…”
*all images courtesy of coreyfishes.com