A journal of workers working

Corey Arnold

Photographer & Fisherman


Fishing has always been a separate career that I wanted to pursue. I went to Alaska looking for a fishing job because I grew up as a hardcore sports fisherman and I always thought it would be cool to be at least a part-time fisherman. I pursued that before I even pursued photography. And it was after doing it for a while that I realized how valuable it would be as a photography project. I had been around boats and the ocean a lot even though the weather was not even close to comparable where I grew up in Southern California. And I had even gone sports fishing in Alaska a couple times so I knew what I was in for.

For the last five years I have worked on a crab boat and we fish king crab and snow crab. Occasionally I jump on other boats. Last year I did about three weeks of halibut long lining and this year I am going to start fishing salmon again. My main job has been crab on one boat called Rollo. Each trip takes around a week and we’ll do from two to five trips in a season. We average about six hours of sleep a night. We are working about 16 hours and then maybe a couple of hours of downtime. It used to be to where we were fishing like 20 hours and barely sleeping, like an hour here and there. It was kind of ‘catch all you can’ before the season would close. If you are catching most of your income for the year in a two-week period you pretty much try not to sleep and do whatever you can. There are five people on the boat—the captain and four deckhands. One of those deckhands is also an engineer and another is a deckhand and cook. We are kind of all family on the boat. We live so much of the year together we are all really good friends (when we are not fighting and arguing).


I studied photography in art school. In high school I was interested in it, but I never saw it as a career move. I was more interested in science. But I was influenced by a friend to go to Academy of Art in San Francisco. I just showed up there. I didn’t come from a very creative background so I had a lot to learn. It was pretty beneficial for me to go to art school. The good thing about it was that I was never told to conform to anyone’s standards of how photography should be. I was told to do exactly what I wanted to do and to do what you love and try to make it happen.


I kind of got lucky because my skipper is really a creative guy and he understands what I am doing and he is not one to really shout orders. We are kind of our own people so I just have to make sure that I am not overstepping my boundaries. When I am photographing I wait until the weather is perfectly terrible, or the light is perfect, and I ask the guys if they mind if I take some photos. But when I am jumping out and taking photos, the deck really doesn’t function because there are only three guys running the show and one person has to run double-time around in circles to do the job that the fourth person would do. I have to really time when I am going to do it. Usually I am wearing all my gear and everything—I just have one glove off and I have my camera in a plastic bag and I run in, grab the camera, sprint out, do as much as I can, and then with my other hand I am moving the sorting table around. My camera is flying all over the place. It’s really a messy. It’s not easy at all.


It’s kind of a dual life. The crab fishing job kind of stumbled upon me as I was looking for a way to pay off my college debts. I met this guy and one thing led to another and I ended up on the crab boat. And going out and realizing how visually insane it was out there and how I had never seen pictures from the weather that I was experiencing and hardly any pictures from the fishing industry. I thought, ‘Wow, I can make a living, I can almost live off this for a year and I don’t have to worry about getting photography jobs. I can spend all my time and money photographing what I want to photograph.’ I incorporated it into a life project to travel and photograph fishing industries and work in them. Two years after I started crab fishing, Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” show came along and sort of opened up the world to what’s going on in commercial fishing. It helped me in a way and at the same time it has sort of saturated the market with crab fishing images and things like that.


I never really considered myself a documentary photographer, it just kind of happened this way. I like to stage things to look really un-set up and really documentary but add a little curiosity to the images. Or create a scene that I know isn’t just going to come about on its own. I know I can create some of the same feeling that we feel out there. A lot of the stuff is straight documentary because I am working and just shooting what I see. I like the mix of documentary and posed images because there is just a sort of element of humor. I like to manipulate things as well. But I never manipulate anything digitally.

In my photography I am not just completely focused on the insane danger and what not, I am focusing on the other beauty around—the birds and the sea and things like that. I like to hope that I am doing something different than mainstream magazine photographers; I guess maybe it’s the humor and the weirdness element that I try to throw in as much as possible. I wish I could do more. That just makes people wonder and sort of tricks the eye. I am interested in that—getting strange emotions out of people rather than just showing them exactly what is going on out there. Photography by Corey Arnold. Interview by Alex Frankel.

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