The fishermen brigade of Braslav (and some miscellanea)

fishermen2

A couple of days ago I finally managed to hang out with the fishermen brigade of Braslav. What a bunch of characters! My initial impression was that they were rude, mindless brutes. I’ve met people jut like them in India and Indonesia, but never felt the same, perhaps the fact that I could understand everything these guys said formed my opinion.  Every second word was a curse word, every joke was explicit and I think at least a couple of them may have had a good drink during the  work day.

It would be easy for me to look down on them or to get frustrated with their attempts to poke fun at me at every opportunity, this happened even more after they found out I was from Australia. “You have ostriches there right? Instead of fishing do you go crocodile hunting, right?” When I tripped, while moving around in my boots (which are a few sizes too big), one fisherman who found it particularly delightful to laugh at my expense said – “F-ck, watch your step, this isn’t f-cking Australia where the ground is all even and nice!” I found his comment funny and almost beautifully ignorant. I smiled and laughed. I guess that’s something I’ve learned to do regardless of circumstances, over time. As a photographer you almost can’t afford to have an ego, to get angry or to lose your temper, at least not while you are working and especially not while you are photographing people. You have to get a feel for those you are “working” with and while that’s happening, it’s better to shut up, smile and keep shooting.

When I got that feel for the fellows in the boats I realized that despite their brute nature, they were quite decent folks – simple people who work hard and get paid very little. They make the most of the situation and poke fun at each other almost as much as they poked fun at me. Me being with them was a somewhat fun departure from their regular schedule and so they couldn’t resist directing all their “enthusiasm” in my direction.

I guess I passed some sort of test by not negatively reacting to their jokes and just smiling and laughing all the way. They did do some funnily stupid things, one of the older men almost turned over a boat and nearly filled his boots with icy cold water in a desperate attempt to get to shore for a smoke. About half way through the whole fish catching process they stopped poking fun, I got more comfortable and started jumping from one boat to another and lying down on the wet nets, to get a better angle. The jokes turned to amusement and then, dare I say to something close to respect, they realized that I was working pretty hard, just as they were.

The images I got were not as “pretty” as I’d like them to be, the light became flat half way through and stayed that way for almost the entire shoot. They do however give you a bit of an idea of what the process was like. In any case, I’m hoping to get another stab at shooting this thing before I leave Braslav and head towards Romania.

By the way, if any of the blog readers live in or around Warsaw or Krakow, Poland, somewhere on the way to Romania in Hungary or in Slovakia,  then I’d love to meet you for tea/coffee and chat. Just email me from my website or post a comment.

Another thing, one of my images should be on display at the PDN PhotoPlus Expo (Nat Geo Traveler World in Focus Contest) in New York October 22-24. Apparently I won something, but I have not been informed exactly what, maybe it’s just the chance to be exhibited. In any case, it’s quite exciting. 🙂 If anyone from NY will go to this thing, perhaps you can tell me if I actually won a prize and whether my image looks decent in print.


fishermen3Sasha (middle) is the leader of the brigade, he does a lot of moving around and probably more cursing than anyone else, I guess that’s part of the job.

fishermen6 Sasha collecting fish from the nets. The young folks in green coats are picking out the fish which is smaller than 27cm (approx) putting them in the wooden box and tossing them back out into the lake. Such is the law.

fish7 This one’s pretty self-explanatory.

fishermen5 When all is said and done, the fish are placed into wooden boxes, loaded into cars and sent off to the fish factory.

That’s all for now folks. More to come soon.

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7 Responses to “The fishermen brigade of Braslav (and some miscellanea)”

  1. selina maitreya Says:

    I love how when I get past my assumptions about people I get to see them more fully, more as they truly are. I learn about myself as well. The world is full of characters with heart!
    I love that.
    Photographers are so lucky, you get to meet so many people, that you might otherwise not come in contact with.

  2. Damien Franco Says:

    Selina makes a good point about getting past assumptions. One of the great things about photography is that it’s almost universal. Most people have some sort of appreciation for good photography and the impact that a great photographer can have on the world.

  3. John Reid Says:

    Great series of images (as per usual). One thing I’ve noticed about your images is that you always manage to capture some of your subject’s character. It shows that you take a genuine interest in the lives of people rather then just simply taking travel photos.

    I often find that people I am the most skeptical of are often the most friendly, down to earth people that I have great conversations with and always enjoy photographing afterwards.

  4. Benjamin Says:

    Great story and great pictures as always! I´m not living in Eastern Europe, but if you will travel one day to Germany, you´re always welcome!

  5. Andy Says:

    I’m from Krakow but I’m not there at the moment and Monday I’m flying to Indonesia… 😦
    I wish we could meet and chat, maybe next time…

  6. Shawn Says:

    To ruin a perfectly good discussion about people with a technical question…

    What do you do to keep your equipment from getting “contaminated” (ex. fish guts, water, garbage, etc…) whenever you are shooting in less than clean circumstances?

  7. Mitchell Says:

    Shawn: When I’m actually shooting I don’t have anything special that I use. I just try to avoid dropping it into the “masses” in question. 🙂

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