Voyaging: The Treaty Fish Co., Peshawbestown, Mich.
Ed and Cindi John
The temperature was well below freezing and the wind was making sure it stayed that way. As my boots made the crunch…crunch…through snow and ice while trudging toward a fishing boat, a seagull delivered a side-eye glance to see if I’d be worth following; it judged correctly and flew away.
The talent of the Treaty Fish Co.—Ed and Cindi John—were to meet me at the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians marina docks in Peshawbestown, Mich., so that I could make images of them setting a perch net in Grand Traverse Bay aboard their fishing vessel, Linda Sue.
Michigan is fortunate to have thousands of miles—3,224 to be exact—of coastline along fresh water. It’s beautiful to look at and play in and but it’s always to be respected. Like so many others, Ed and Cindi use their proximity to water for their livelihood. They have been commercial fishing since the late 1980s, supplying their loyal customers and restaurants with fine fresh fish, consistently.
As the Linda Sue—named after Cindi’s late sister—chugs through waves, gulls begin to slowly close in using an arbitrary flight pattern, seemingly of the belief that I won’t be enough bad luck to deter them from a possible perch dinner. They don’t know we’re setting a net, not pulling a net, though.
Setting the Net
When we reach the perch-net drop-off site, Ed and Cindi help each other out using short, colorful bursts of words that only a fishing couple married as long as they’ve been could understand. Before I could even finish off my camera’s 36-frame film roll, they’d set the perch net with supreme efficiency and speed. The net was set.
As we began motoring back to the marina, I took some time to appreciate the rustic interior of the Linda Sue; condensation forming on the windows from the difference in temperature between the heater-warmed interior and the early-season winter exterior; tools and clothes, including a weathered pair of gloves preventing heat from reaching a section of the aged windshield; and a visual cacophony of fishing gear.
Back to Shore
“Last week we saw an eagle,” Cindi tells me as we near the docks, showing me a picture of it on her cell phone. Looking at the surroundings—the conifer-covered shoreline and almost-endless horizon—it indeed looks like the type of pristine place eagles would—and do— soar. For now, I’m thankful to have shared an outing they’ve done hundreds, most likely thousands, of times; as the smell of fishing boat and diesel wafts in, and some seagulls follow.
Tech notes: For this self assignment, I knew I wanted to shoot film. To me, film renders images with natural nuances I enjoy. I chose the Canon 1V for this project because it focuses quickly and I knew that being on the water—which always includes unpredictable waves and wind—would require a speedy and trusted tool. I can’t recommend the Canon 1V enough, it’s such an incredible and consistent piece of photographic machinery.
More importantly, the access for this assignment was able to happen simply with a phone call. Other stories had been done about Ed and Cindi but I knew, as soon as I’d read about them, that I had to photograph them.
If you’re wondering about photos, projects and assignments for yourself, sometimes all you have to do is reach out. The worse someone can say is “No” but if they say “Yes” then you could be making some amazing images. You might find that a lot of self assignments don’t work out; that happens sometimes and it’s okay. The effort is worth it because eventually it does works out, quality images are made and the stories of your community are told.