July 15, 2015: Photo Exhibit/Book Signing in Sitka, Alaska
Sitka invited us up to mount an exhibit of the vintage black-and-white photography with an author book signing—Aug. 5th, 5:30-8:30 p.m., in the resplendent Allen Hall on the Sheldon Jackson campus. Some 250 photos ranging in size from 12×18 up to 24×36 will be on display and available for purchase.
It’s been a longtime dream that one day the fishermen in the photos or of the era would see the photos of their lives. This is that dream come true, because one man—Seafood Producers Cooperative Manager Craig Shoemaker—shared the vision and saw its value to the community, to Sitka’s history, to the fishing industry and to the fleet itself. Craig did whatever had to be done to make it happen joined by Manager Tim Ryan of Sitka Sound Seafoods. I am most grateful for the backing and support of Sitka’s seafood processing plants—where I used to sell my fish and take showers and do laundry, where I used to gather information, interviews and photos for my stories in Alaska Fisherman’s Journal and Pacific Fishing magazine. It’s brought my life full circle and from boxes of photos and stories stored in the attic it is creating a legacy as well, rescuing the collection from obscurity.
This is where most all the photos, quotes and stories came from—Sitka. It’s as if someone followed you around with a camera for a few years but you didn’t get to see the photos till now, 30 years later. Actually, it’s exactly like that. Fishfolks of that era who visit the exhibit will be surrounded by their lives, their friends, their boats, themselves.
The 1980s is yet a living history, many of those photographed no longer with us but many who still are although, it is true, in the autumn of our lives. Do come.
Feb. 18, 2015: A New Line of Fish-Photo Notecards
For all those times you might actually want to write something on paper and put a stamp on it—arriving in the mail’s always a nice touch! 4.25″x5.5″ cardstock with envelopes; 2 B&W photos ea. Variety Packs of 4 Designs—2 Salmon Trolling, 2 Longlining (1 of each a Thank You card, the other Blank). Available now at the online store in packs of 4 or 12:
NEW BLACK-&-WHITE PHOTOBOOK—Available Now
“Alaska Fishing Gold Rush of the 1980s” by Jana M. Suchy © 2015
Unique from the first book in that it is black-&-white photography as well as specific to the history of the hook-&-line fisheries—longlining halibut, cod, and trolling salmon. 264 pages, the 9″x12″ hardcover coffee-table book explores the decade of the Deadly Derbies through more than 400 photos and over 20 stories previously published in the midst of the unfolding drama
“Alaska Fishing Gold Rush of the 1980s” by Jana M. Suchy © 2014
Some months into a new book of black-&-white film photography we have a new title and stronger focus chronicling an era of upheaval in the Alaska fishing industry—a gritty look at a gritty life.
Film photography and previously published stories from the hook-&-line fleet of the 1980s document a volatile time when time-honored traditions fishing for a living in Alaska’s Southeast abruptly ended with a rush to gold—black gold (black cod) and white gold (halibut). With insider knowledge and first-hand experience the story unfolds in real time over three incredible years, 1986 to ’88, filled with raw emotion, insanity, danger and death.
The old days—fishing for months on end setting long lines along the ocean bottom in a hard-working, measured pace—slammed into a flood of gold seekers “jumping claim” and dumping tons of gear over the rails to carpet the ocean floor in a turmoil of barbed hooks and tangled lines. A free-for-all that brought the longline fishery to its knees. Fish managers faced with such an assault on the resource sought some measure of control, with hands tied against certain options choosing instead simply to limit the time to fish. But already overwhelmed by sheer force the onslaught of boats in short order hacked fishing seasons stretching months-long into bits—into short-shot openings of a few days and, soon after, mere hours.
It was a war zone.
As the race to fish exploded to fevered pitch a new regulated reality threatening on the horizon eventually swept over the Last Frontier and finally fenced it in. By the mid-’90s legislation granted shares of the fishery to some fishermen and cut others out in a controversial and bitterly fought upheaval of the Alaska longline fleet. Tied to the fates of diminishing opportunities in the rockfish and salmon-troll fisheries, along with the promising rise of a new gray-cod fishery, the intertwining cause-and-effects changed the fishing industry forever. These were the ‘80s—the crazy years, the dangerous years, the years of the Deadly Derbies.
Losing the Last Frontier? Yes, most of Alaska is still wilderness. And you can still die in that wilderness. But now you pretty much need a permit to do what you were doing when you died.
Last Frontier Lost. But she didn’t go out without a bang, and that bang was the 1980s.
“Alaska Fishing Gold Rush of the 1980s” available now, limited-edition 9×12 hardcover coffee-table story- and photobook. Come for the black-&-white film photography, stay for the stories—history alive with the faces and voices of fishermen reaching out from the past.
New Fish PhotoBook in the Works—as we speak!
Waded through a big stack of contact sheets and negative strips last fall to select some 800 images for scanning at Bozeman’s f-ll. Working in native B&W files is rare anymore, all the Lightroom/Photoshop guidelines for digital editing assume they’re color and we’re just converting to black and white. So it’s proving quite the adventure working them over to get ready for prime time.
Prime time would be going to print. Unlike the first very expensive book produced and sold on-demand online through Blurb, I’m creating this next coffee table book in InDesign in order to go to press and produce a digital run of 100, greatly reducing cost to the normal book price range.
I’ve been reading many of my “period pieces” originally written while a fish writer/photographer in the fleet back in the 1980s, selecting some to type into the laptop for including in the book. They were, after all, created on an electric Smith-Corona. Remember those!? Vintage. These stories harken back to an era marking the craziness of derby fishing as fishermen diversified and flocked to the still wide-open frontier of longlining—halibut, blackcod and rockfish. Seasons slashed—down to 12, 24, 36 hours—prices came way up, and suddenly everyone was a longliner and wanted in on the action. The onset of the great diversification of the fleet. It was a crazy Gold Rush mentality, The Old Days quickly overtaken by The New Reality. What I called the Deadly Derbies.
As I’m now starting to build the book around these photos and stories I’ll also write original material and captions to tie it together as well as give background information for readers unfamiliar with fishing.
There you have it. I’m aiming to have the book printed and available later in summer 2014, in plenty of time for a companion photo exhibit at Sunrise Coffee Co. at the Port Townsend (Wash.) boatyard sometime in early November. It grew to include a big new building at the port so we’ll fill it up with photos. Stay tuned—you should come!
Two Fish PhotoBooks—color, and black & white
NEW Black-&-White photobook avail. Feb. 2015
The first book—color—published 2013 online through Blurb’s on-demand publishing—available for preview or purchase at this link to Blurb publishing: Jana Suchy’s Bookstore
Take a visual journey back in time onboard small fishing boats on a big ocean, as if you were there. A fun and pretty book, stories, sidebars and captions pull the reader into a world of water, living and working on the North Pacific in a wilderness of islands and rocks that is Southeast Alaska.
In addition to the 11×13 coffee-table size it is now available in smaller 8×10 format as well as serialized versions split into three 8×10 independent volumes—all 8×10 books offered in both hard- and softcover. Click Jana Suchy’s Bookstore to preview and order all books at
Blurb publishing, an expensive way to print big books so the new B&W book’s printed in a limited press run. If ordering from Blurb please carefully select your choice: 3 small cover icons below represent serialized volumes (each split into one-third of the big book); the large cover icon below appears in the bookstore twice—both as a large 11×13 hardcover coffee-table book and a smaller 8×10 format with the same content in either hard- or softcover.
Fishing was a way I made a living when I was young, adventurous, and had a strong back, all three of which have fallen a bit by the wayside of life. Fishing gave me experiences beyond measure, showed me rugged country beyond accessible to the casual traveler or observer, taught me hard work beyond all other before or since. It greatly informed who I’ve become.
It’s what the book Fishing for a Living in Alaska’s Southeast is all about: stories and photos from the boom-&-bust, wild-&-wooly days of the 1980s—written, photographed and published in present-tense 1983-1988. It’s an inside look at the commercial fishing industry in Alaska during the ’80s from a woman who fished the back deck as crew three years, then covered the fisheries another three as fish writer/photographer for the fish papers of the day. A big, beautiful 11×13 coffee table book with over 300 photos and 10 previously published stories in 230 pages. Now available in the small 8×10 format in entirety—as well as serialized into 3 separate volumes—at this Blurb books link: Jana Suchy’s Bookstore.
I very much enjoyed my newfound voice of extemporaneous writing in this first book—the newly written caption-and-sidebar glue that holds the stories from the ’80s together—as opposed to the details, focus and research inherent to fish reporting or writing for hire. So much so that I’m eager to write a second book to feature the long-buried black-&-white photographs amassed during the Alaska fish years. I promise it’s not going to take the same 30 years to become a reality now that I’ve got the skunk off the deck.
8 November 2013: The Next Book
Well, it’s true—I started the black-&-white book. Dug into my pile of B&W negatives and contact sheets for the first time in 25 years and discovered a real treasure trove in there. Back then before Photoshop I always used two cameras, one for color film, the other B&W. But even color film was primitive and limiting and typically couldn’t take a picture in low light, so that’s when I’d switch to the fast film of black and white. And there’s stuff in there I’ve never seen before, lots of Men At Work shots on hook-and-line boats, salmon trolling and longlining halibut, rockfish, sablefish and gray cod. From the fishing grounds, on the back deck, catching fish, doing gearwork, offloading to seafood plants, and the slime line of workers processing the fish. It’s all there.
Then my attic once more revealed the original manuscripts I’d written for fishing magazines at the height of the madness that was longlining before IFQs (Individual Fishing Quotas) changed everything. Everything. Took the wide-open right out of fishing. These stories with titles like “Black Cod—Take No Prisoners” and “The Latest War Zone” chronicle the frenzy of what I call the Deadly Derbies of the ’80s, fishing “seasons” squashed into brutal openings of mere hours, typically just 24, 36, 48—or even 12. Madness, I tell you. This second book is slated to be a gritty piece of history comparable to the crazy fervor of a gold rush. It tells a story about closing The Last Frontier, when they fenced-in fishing. Stay tuned …
Book Signing in Seattle
You are invited! Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, I will be at Chinook’s restaurant 4-7 p.m. at Fishermen’s Terminal in the Ballard district of Seattle for an author meet-&-greet book signing. If you’ve never been, Ballard is the traditional working-man’s fishermen’s district from way back in the day of the Norwegian fishermen taking their boats north to Alaska for the season. The Terminal is a huge harbor where all the workboats tie up, commercial fishing and tugs and tenders—the works. Interesting and fun to walk the docks if not familiar with workboats, a glimpse at a fascinating world you may not get closer to than this.
The Terminal is at the southwest end of the Ballard Bridge with Chinook’s restaurant anchoring a bank of retail businesses right there on the waterfront. Chinook’s address: 1900 W. Nickerson St., Seattle, Wash. 98119. Copy/paste that address into Mapquest or Google Maps. One of the Anthony’s restaurants brand, Chinook’s is a lovely seafood dining experience with excellent food and 100 dazzling photos of Alaska commercial fishing displayed on the walls, half of which are mine and in the book itself. O.K., so I’m biased about the dazzling.
Order your book in advance from the Author’s Bookstore to bring with you—allow 2 whole weeks for delivery—as only a limited number will be available for sale at the event. However, you may order a book onsite if you’d like the book shipped to me first for signing before sending it to you—just in time for Christmas! How cool is that? (very) Or just stop by the event to say Hello; love to reconnect with folks from back in the ’80s, a very long time ago.
Any questions please contact me. If ordering at the online bookstore please note there are options displayed: the big coffee table book, the same book in smaller format, and the same material serialized into three separate volumes. My recommendation: You should really see these photos big.
Look forward to seeing you there!