The fishing squatter community living in an abandoned Alaskan salmon cannery
American photographer Corey Arnold explores the raw reality of life and death at Graveyard Point, Bristol Bay
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Corey Arnold is an American photographer from Portland, Oregon, who works part-time as a commercial fisherman in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

The ocean is a central theme in his work, which tends to focus on the lives of those who live off the sea. Nowhere are those lives richer than at Graveyard Point, a remote outpost in the frigid bay where a hundred fishermen squat in an abandoned salmon cannery.

It’s a melting pot of fishermen from all walks of life who converge every summer with a common goal: to catch as many fish as possible, work hard, and make money. “I visited Graveyard in 2008 with the intention of photographing the community, but I ended up falling in love with the place and moved in the next year. Now I spend five to six weeks there each summer and I hope to continue doing that for the rest of my life.”

The settlement got its name from an old graveyard that has been slowing slipping into the sea next to the cannery. Ideas of isolation, death, and decay punctuate Corey’s work there. “Every year, caskets slide into the sea and human remains appear on the beach,” he says. “Brown bears roam the water’s edge, searching for decaying salmon carcasses that have fallen out of fishermen’s nets and washed up on shore,” he says. “The salmon are caught before their suicidal journey up river to spawn, but still millions will continue past the boats alive, only to spawn and die and fertilize the river systems that breathes new life into the land. The cycle of life and death is very visible at Graveyard and an important theme in my work.”

Life at Graveyard is tough, but the camaraderie and spirit of the desolated settlement makes it worthwhile. “Everyone here has a story, whether they’re a professional dog musher, a used car dealer, a farmer, artist, construction worker, writer, or software engineer in the off-season,” he says. “At Graveyard, everyone’s equal, living in a self-made, seemingly lawless society. We live simply, off rainwater, salmon, and solar energy. It’s a lifestyle that brings people together.”

The inhabitants of Graveyard, who are now Corey’s friends, are the centerpiece of this series.

The Graveyard Hotel
The Mud Set
The Lookout
Nakeen
Graveyard Point

Wounded Bear Near Red Salmon I
Kirsty
Koggiung

“I’ve gotten to know almost everyone in the camp, as I often wander about with my camera visiting friends,” Corey explains. “I see Graveyard Point as an escape into a more natural world where modern conveniences and modern day stresses no longer apply. I think that the desire to escape and live and work outside of an urban office environment is something that a lot of people can relate to, including myself.  So nature is a place of refuge for me and what motivates my work.”

Steve-O
Over Haul
Untitled
Salmon Shark

Thanks, Corey, for giving us an insight into Graveyard Point. 
You can see more of Corey’s work on his website.

Immerse yourself in the world of photography with more FvF photographer portraits, or discover isolated communities with FvF Explores.

Photography: Corey Arnold
Text: Jack Mahoney