A few weeks ago, my fiancé Chris called from F/V Lady Rose, a commercial salmon fishing boat he is working on in Bristol Bay, Alaska. “I don’t know if I told you, but a woman came on the boat to take our pictures last year,” Chris said. “And she’s coming back again tomorrow.”
Um, no. He didn’t mention it. (Obviously, because I’d want to see the pictures. Hello!) But, I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it on his three-minute break from a net-set. I breathed. I moved on…
Later, when Chris messaged the name Bri Dwyer, I pounced on Instagram to search for her account.
Twenty-minutes later, I was still there. And once you discover her photos, you will be, too.
Bri captures the world of commercial fishing many people – even the partners of commercial fisherman – can’t really grasp. A world, she admits, reality TV cameras aren’t able to capture.
Because of her technique of raw photos and killer captions, Bri gifts us a view of commercial fishing that fully engulfs us in:
“I crouched down low to the deck because I needed the right angle to catch the sun. I knew I would be in the war zone, but the best photographs come from putting yourself in the middle of it all.
“The boat was shifting back and forth, so I engaged my abs to keep a steady lens. It’s a wonder I don’t have a six-pack by now. JK, I like pizza and beer.
As the net was reeled in, I felt the seawater spray stick to my skin. I kept shooting from this angle. It was too good to move.
“When the fish came over the side, blood, slime, and scales showered over the top of me. Salmon flopped to the deck around me and sometimes on me.
“I grabbed my t-shirt to clear my lens and held my position. Slime in my mouth, my hair, my arms, my camera.
“Seven hours of fishing and 10,000 lbs of salmon later, I was thankful for a long, hot shower on the Brenna A.”
(Author’s note: “Brenna A.” is the name of her husband’s fishing vessel.)
I was stunned by the images, and not because Chris is in a few.
I finally saw the gritty side of the industry my sweetheart has lived for over a decade. An industry his father, uncles, cousins, future brother-in-law, and sister have lived, too.
Of course, I contacted Bri.
I not only had to know what it’s like to be a photographer on a commercial fishing boat, but what her experience is like married to one. (Chris lightly mentioned her husband runs a boat.)
Through an Instagram DM, Bri kindly agreed to an interview.
To add to the realness, she had to send images through What’s App on blips of cell signal she would find here and there – similar to how I communicate with Chris – because she’s currently on a boat in Alaska. So cool.
The three photos below are from her time on F/V Lady Rose (or “fishing vessel” Lady Rose) in July 2019. (I hadn’t seen Chris since the end of May, so these were a treat!):
As Kylie Jenner would say, I’m realizing things…
I should also add that literally just now – Monday, July 22nd at 10:32 am – as I Googled Bri to learn her photography background, this pops up:
Palm to head.
It also proves that reality TV fame isn’t needed to elevate her photography – her artistry stands alone.
I did find out that since becoming a go-to photographer for the fishing industry, Bri has shot for heavy hitters such as XTRATUF, Trident Seafoods, Fisherman’s News, and Grundéns to name a few.
Kind of a big deal.
Let the Queen speak…
Lucky for us, Bri took time from photographing commercial fishermen and helping her husband run the boat for a quick Q&A. (Yes, the boat is F/V Brenna A. – the same one on Deadliest Catch!)
What makes this interview so special is that Bri truly understands what it’s like to date a commercial fisherman BECAUSE HER HUSBAND IS ON DEADLIEST CATCH FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!
(Yes, ladies, we have found a Grand Dame of commercial fishing. Let us rejoice!)
…which makes her last piece of advice that much more meaningful.
So, without further ado…
Q&A with photographer Bri Dwyer:
Where are you from and when did you become a professional photographer?
I grew up just outside of Portland Oregon.
I shot my first wedding at 16 and quickly booked clients by word of mouth after that. I learned the hard way what it takes to run a business at 17 and, after a few years, packed up my camera equipment and didn’t shoot again until I made my way to Alaska at 26.
What do you hope people take away from your photos?
This industry is so mysterious to most of the world. The dramatic snapshot they get through reality TV doesn’t do it justice, in my opinion.
I want my audience to see the beauty, hard work, and realness that I see in people who work on the water. There’s a dedication to this lifestyle that takes some getting used to and becomes hard to walk away from.
When did commercial fishing become a part of your life?
I took a job in Dutch Harbor, Alaska in September 2015. It was a way for me to save money to travel around the world.
I was captivated by Alaska and the fishing industry and saw so many stories waiting to be shared. I invested in new equipment and spent the summer of 2017 working on the boat with Sean and shooting. Those photos gained traction in the industry and have set me on a new path for my career as a photographer.
That small, eclectic community was my first introduction to the world of commercial fishing and I loved everything about it, minus the smells.
The weather through the winter is gloomy and dark and people work 6-7 days a week. It’s an entire town centered around and in support of the fishing industry and I found it fascinating.
How did you meet your husband and was it love at first sight?
Sean and I met the year I moved to Dutch Harbor. I knew there was something different about him, but we were both seeing other people at the time. We reconnected a year later when I took another job in Dutch, both free to explore a relationship. It took about 3 months before we both knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
What’s the most challenging part of dating a commercial fisherman? What’s the best part?
The most challenging part about dating a commercial fisherman is the all-consuming nature of the industry. We eat, sleep, breathe commercial fishing. It’s Sean’s livelihood, his first love, and his family’s legacy. As we work together to build a life around it, we often have to remember to take a step back and remember to make time for friends, family and each other.
Some years allow for that more than others, but we have learned and are still learning how to communicate when we need that time.
The best part about dating a commercial fisherman is the time we spend apart.
I know that seems like it would be the worst, and sometimes it feels that way when I show up to a wedding without my date, but the time we spend apart makes us both love and appreciate each other more.
I’ve always been pretty independent, so I appreciate my alone time. But, more importantly, he knows that I can take care of what needs to be done while he’s away.
I’m his strongest support and nothing makes me feel more proud than being able to be that for him.
What’s the most challenging part of photographing commercial fishermen? What’s the best part?
I’m a girly girl. I’ll get down and dirty, but it takes some mental preparation and some pep talks before I convince myself to dive in.
The most challenging part of photographing the men and women in this industry is knowing I’m going to take fish slime, scales, and blood straight to the face on a regular basis.
My hands will get dirty and my nails will be broken, but the photos I get from placing myself in the middle of it all are worth every scale I pluck out of my hair.
I commend the women out here not showering for weeks and using a bucket as a bathroom. That’s next level and they are all badass babes.
The best part is how little retouching – if any – I have to do to my photos before they become final edits.
These guys don’t care if they have shit on their face, bags under their eyes or wild and crazy windblown hair.
It’s real and raw and badass.
It’s a relief coming from the wedding and portrait industry, where expectations of Instagram worthy photos are at an all-time high.
What advice can you give someone who is just starting to date a commercial fisherman?
Dating a true, career commercial fisherman takes patience and understanding that they’ve committed themselves to a lifestyle.
My advice to anyone starting to date someone living this life is to be open to learning and exploring it with them. You don’t have to fish or be out on the boat.
Sometimes what they need the most is the encouragement and support to keep going.
Be the source driving their mental toughness because it takes a lot of it to live out there on the water.
What do you think of Bri’s photography? Do you date a commercial fisherman or can you relate in some way? We’d love to know! Please share in the comments below!
Want more advice on dating a commercial fisherman? Catch up on the series!:
Thank y’all for reading! I want to work on creating more content on dating a fisherman, so if there is anything you would like to learn more about, please let me know! XO –