David Mattox is a photographer and Alaskan commercial salmon fisherman. Born and raised in Oregon, he graduated from the University of Portland in 2004 with a BA in Philosophy and English Literature. Upon graduation, he took a job as a deckhand on a setnet skiff on Alaska's Cook Inlet, a summer adventure that would lead to three more seasons work as a deckhand before buying his former captain's fishing operation. Currently, David is living in Boston, MA with his wife and their little gray cat, traveling to Alaska as a family for the seasonal harvest of wild sockeye salmon as East Side Setnetters on the Upper Cook Inlet. His ongoing project "Fish Camp" documents the work and the lifestyle of his summers spent on the shores of Alaska. He studies photography through workshops and is represented in Boston by 555 Gallery.
Fish Camp is an ongoing series of photographs documenting an East Side Setnet Camp on the Upper Cook Inlet of Alaska, a camp that comes together each summer for the commercial harvest of wild sockeye salmon as they return to spawn in the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. I have worked in this camp for a decade, first for 4 years as a deckhand, and since 2008, as a permit holder, captain and owner of my own small operation.
When I first began traveling to Alaska, I was struck more than anything by the contrast between the stark beauty of its landscapes and the weathered state of disrepair in which much of its towns and outlying communities appeared to be. I have come to find Alaska to be a place where the realities of its seasons, the expanse of land, coastline, open water, and the extremity of its industries combine to create not only unique lifestyles among its inhabitants, but in particular a culture of work that is often misrepresented and misunderstood by the “lower forty-eight”. In 10 summers spent in Alaska, of all the things I have pointed my camera at, I have become most drawn to make pictures of the people that I work with because I find the allure of Alaska’s character more prominently displayed than anywhere else on the faces of the individuals that live its narrative season after season. This is a character which ultimately gives view of a cultural landscape that plays out on one of the greatest stages of land, water, and horizon that I have ever been privileged enough to witness.
In taking these pictures, it is not my intention to show how things “really are," for I believe these pictures tell a fiction of their own. Perhaps the story they tell is at its simplest the version that I like to remember the most. Alec Soth once said that the "art is the experience of moving through the world, the photograph is just some sort of documentation of this.” It is in line with this sentiment that I both marvel at the placethat I have found Alaska to be and can think of no greater satisfaction than to be back on its shores as spectator, participant, and documenter.
These images represent everyday moments, as they arrive and as they pass by. For this project I have become drawn to objects and patterns as they exist upon every surface of life, and witha design for simplicity, with a shedding of their contextual importance, but not a complete loss of it, I want to challenge the viewers to look a little bit closer into their own daily selves, into their own every day experience of warmth, light, color, touch. Without the visual complexities and peripheral complications of objects upon objects, colors upon colors, textures upon textures, and the human body itself, these images attempt to reduce the entanglement and slowly focus for one moment, on an object, a texture, a reason, a memory: the curve of metal, the smell and touch of steel, of flesh, a meal prepared, a light rain, a kiss, a drive on the beach.
At one moment I am lured by an object whose simplicity not only portrays an isolated beauty, but also inspires me to imagine the absolute complexity of its history, its utility, and the potential for its existence at all. In the next moment, it is the pattern and texture of the natural world contrasting, but also complimenting that of the man made world, and the ensuing competition that exists between the two.
As the minutes and hours of our lives pile upon each other, our thoughts and visions and dreams entangle into a muddied confluence of passing days where so much expires with but the smallest consideration. It is such moments as those depicted in these photographs that I hope ask fornoting more than a brief pause, and that quiet consideration, which if nothing else, slows that passing for the briefest of seconds.