It is the looming and vaguely overwhelming fear of the unknown that has my heart banging in the quiet hours of the night lately. I’ve worked remote gigs in the frozen corners of Alaska, the rural back roads of dusty California and screamed across corporate sales floors above the streets of downtown Denver. I’ve been dealt my share of painful nerves in these varied roles and found that the first jolt of adrenaline never really gets any less stomach turning, and yet – and yet – I’m constantly in search of the next something. Something to be experienced, felt, tasted, loved, lived. A new mental state with sensation as the proxy.
Alaska, in all of its infinitely delicate and rough hewn forms, captured my curiosity and has kept my compass pointed north for some time now. I began my stay in this last frontier on an island accessible only by chartered boat or rough riding float plane. Slicing fish belies, cleaning incubators, skiffing across the frozen bay with the wind whipping at 60 kts and the usually placid waters leaping beneath the bow. The only inhabitants of the island were us hatchery workers – living remote to raise salmon, to run away, to run into the wild, the unknown. Whatever.
I choose the places that I work based on what I want to photograph. I’m fascinated with big industry at the moment – how the human cogs fit into the mesh of metal and mud, greenery and dust. At the salmon hatchery, I chose to use my canon ultra wide angle nearly exclusively. The massive amount of negative space it captured lent itself to the barren, empty feel of the island. In blizzards we felt alone, lost in a world of muffled white and separated from society more completely than I’d ever experienced.
The photographs I’ve selected show the wintered over harbor of Cordova, the last town passed before months living remote, and the quiet places of the island in Prince William Sound and it’s humming hatchery.
Just as I thought I was ready to return to real life – whatever “real” means – I took the next plunge and signed a year long contract to work as a marine biologist on the big kid waves and in the big kid boats of the Bering Sea.
Gone for me are the days of simple hatchery life, that slower island life. I’m chasing the salmon to their adult grounds, where their sides flash silver and codends pulled from the deep, writhing with pollock, take center stage. My camera, though taboo around the boats, will be along for the adventure, delving ever deeper into the Alaskan fishing industry.
Text by Katherine Cart
All images © Katherine Cart