Alaska Commercial Fishing 03

Alaska Commercial Fishing 03325
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  1. htw3 says:

    The scenic beauty and rugged allure of the United State’s 49th state lures an annual 1.96 million tourists to her shores (Alaska Resource Development Council 2015). Though boasting an estimated state-wide population of 741,894 residents, (U.S. Census Bureau 2017), most of whom reside in the urban centers of Juneau and Anchorage, much of what the U.S. populace knows about Alaska comes from tall tales of the Western frontier or from the multiple reality television shows who follow protagonists into the dark and stormy depths of the Alaskan wilderness. Television programs such as “Deadliest Catch,” “Alaskan Bush People,” “Life Below Zero,” and “Bering Sea Gold” present Alaska as an untamed, rugged landscape that seduces domination by patriarchal figures, often leading their family to success and prosperity. They emphasize the dangers on deck to fishermen as they battle the elements while simultaneously performing stressful, physically-demanding, and incredibly dangerous work. Highlighted by regular storms of profanity, bodily injuries, and frequent interpersonal confrontations, this is the “Alaska” that many U.S. citizens have come to know. These series document the dangers of attempts to “survive” and “thrive” in one of the most dangerous and unforgiving climates on Earth.
    What these television programs do not show has been cleverly articulated by Rachel in this image. In addition to her related photos showcasing Alaska’s vast landscapes, harbors, and wildlife, Rachel’s viewers are challenged to identify the role that capitalism and its accompanying commercial industries have had in the manipulation and destruction of the state’s environment and the lives of its residents. In “Alaska Commercial Fishing 03,” Rachel captures the ruggedness and geographic/social isolation traditionally associated with Alaska’s financially lucrative fishing industry. Though this image does not contain visible human subjects, the absence of human life prompts the viewer to question these vessels, the mountainous landscape, the dark water, the overcast sky, and their role in the human experience.
    Framed by a rim of snow-topped, boastful, ominous mountains, the image’s lower boundary of clear and reflective, yet dark and foreboding water encases the harbor within a scene of picturesque isolation and demanding rurality. The multiple commercial fishing vessels and lone harbor dinghy blur together as their sail hoists reach the dramatically overcast skies. Weather-worn and tired, with persistent highlights of chipped paint, ripped tarps, and scattered buoys, the harbor’s hazy ambiance brings to focus the divergence between man-made vessel and the nature that surrounds.
    Rachel’s photograph illustrates the ongoing battle between humans and nature; between capitalistic greed and the dangers that loom where fiscal treasures hide. As a viewer, this compelling photograph peaks my curiosity to questions of life and humanity. Where are the people? How do they live? What is their relationship to and experience and involvement with the commercial fishing industry?
    “Alaska Commercial Fishing 03” counteracts the mainstream narrative shown on popular Alaska-based reality television programs: for this one moment in time, nature is at peace, and the lack of human presence illustrates the quenched thirst for financial greed with little regard to environmental impact. Nevertheless, the sole presence of commercial fishing vessels complicates our understanding of interactions between human exploitation and nature. This begs the question: “Yes, the scene is peaceful, but for how long? And under what cost?”

    Works Cited
    Alaska Resource Development Council. 2015. “Alaska’s Tourism Industry.” Retrieved from
    U.S. Census Bureau. 2017. “Population and Housing Unit Estimates.” Retrieved from