Corey Hendrickson Trap Fishing Project
June 10, 2011
Portrait and location photographer Corey Hendrickson began his career working for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado and Alaska. He later became a wildland firefighter, and decided to pursue photography after visiting the Teton Range in Wyoming to put out a blaze. He returned to school for a Masters in photography at the Academy of Art University, and since then his digital and 4 x 5 film photographs have appeared in top publications such as Esquire, Food Network, LIFE, National Geographic Travel, Smithsonian and many others.
Through portraiture, Hendrickson explores the relationships between different environments and the people who work and live in them. His own identification with American land is mirrored in many of his images, building a strong point of view in his body of work.
Recently, he was able to start a personal project that had been on the backburner for a long time. Since moving to New England six years ago, Hendrickson had been fascinated by the trap fishers working along the Rhode Island coast. The trap fishing company already had a link to photography, as the former owner, George Mendonsa, was the subject of an iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo. In the historic black and white image, Mendonsa, a sailor, kisses a woman in Times Square on V-J Day, marking the end of World War II. His business was bought out upon his retirement. During college, Hendrickson met Corey Wheeler Forrest, the daughter of one of the current shareholders. Hendrickson’s concept was something the two of them had discussed extensively, and were finally able to execute this Spring, during the busiest time for trap fishing.
The project was split into two parts. Hendrickson first took candid images of the trap fishermen at work on their vessel, then took environmental portraits of individuals in a controlled setting. He set up a portable studio on the dock and photographed each fisherman directly after they finished working. Limited by space, he used a simple dark backdrop and only one lighting head. The only variation of the setting was to widen or narrow the frame, sometimes extending beyond the backdrop to bring in a sense of space and atmosphere. The consistent setting and nearly identical oil gears worn by the fishermen allowed for the personalities of each subject to emerge more freely.
Shooting on the boat proved a bit more challenging than the controlled portraits. Hendrickson had to tuck away his camera whenever possible due to the poor weather and also found his vantage points rapidly decreasing as the fish piled up on the deck. In these close quarters it was also difficult to stay out of the way and take candid photos. “The ultimate goal is to be completely ignored,” Hendrickson commented. Still, the photos convey the space and the work of the crew without any sense of staging or interference.
Hendrickson is currently working on creating print pieces from this shoot, but his ultimate goal is to revisit and collect enough material for a book edit. Until then, the images can be viewed on his Web site.