When you think about Bristol Bay, the fishing island of Kodiak is closer than you might realize. Its safe to say that Kodiak is the fishing hub of Alaska and many of its residents are connected to the fishery in Bristol Bay in direct and indirect ways. A number of Bristol Bay drift and set-net permit holders make Kodiak their home when they are not fishing Bristol Bay and the lull between seining seasons in Kodiak gives sein boats the perfect opportunity to keep their assets earning as fish tenders during the Bristol Bay sockeye season. If you were to speak about the proposed Pebble Mine to any resident of Kodiak, involved in fishing or not, you would also find that they are aware of the issue and supportive of protecting Bristol Bay from large-scale industrial development. When it comes to fisheries in Alaska, Kodiak residents recognize that what hurts one fishery hurts all fisheries; what taints Bristol Bay salmon taints the actual and perceived value of all fish in Alaska and in turn disrupts the economies that rely on fishing.
Ronald Jackson was born and raised in Kodiak and somehow managed to avoid becoming part of the fishing fleet, but his life is touched by it every day. His roommate is a fisherman, his father made a career as a marine biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and his business partner, Jacob Keplinger, provided seed money for his shop from commercial fishing earnings. Ronald was tattooing Jake when he suggested that Ronald open a tattoo shop and Slim Jones Ink will be celebrating its first anniversary this coming St. Valentine’s Day.
If you were to walk into the shop on Shelikof Street across from the harbor, you would soon realize that body art is not the only art living within the walls of Slim Jones Ink. When Jackson thought of how to adorn the walls, his thoughts turned to a nautical theme. These thoughts bypassed objects such as boats, anchors, and helm wheels, and were pulled to the iconic orange raingear that clothes the fishermen involved in the industry. Ronald’s photography skills were put to use and the results are stunning representations of strong able-bodied fishermen adorned in Grunden wear and nothing else. Male and female subjects are shot against a black background with light strategically highlighting the vivid color of raingear and the muscled and curved bodies that emphasize the elemental beauty of the fisherman.
Jackson views his photographs as studies for another art form, that of film. He feels that the time he has to compose a photograph and the practice of doing so better enables him to capture moving images. His feature length film, “Survive,” credited as director under assumed name Ronald Jerry, received an audience at the 2010 Anchorage International Film Festival and is available for purchase on Amazon.com. These days, Jackson is busy composing art on the bodies of his clients, mostly fishermen. Regardless of the medium he is practicing, Jackson feels that his work is a collaboration, be it with actor, model, or client receiving his ink. Having not had the opportunity to see Jackson’s film work, I feel that his “studies” stand as testaments of respect for the fishermen who harvest the bounty of the sea, but at the same time these pieces stand alone as strong compositions unto themselves. Jackson talks of continuing the series he refers to as “Kodiak meets sexy…Grundens, x-tra tuffs, Carharts” I look forward to seeing more.
Over the life he has spent on Kodiak, Jackson has observed the influence fishing has on the economy of the island. He says it is evident when a season does not pan out because the signs are visible in the community. On another note, when the Exxon Valdez spill occurred outside of Valdez, Jackson and the residents of Kodiak witnessed the effects first hand from the oiling of his dog and the shores of Kodiak. When asked about the proposed Pebble Mine Jackson says, “marine ecosystems all interact with each other and it doesn’t take much for contaminants to travel a long way. It’s a small world when it comes to contaminants. Water and air can carry them a long way quickly.” He believes that over time the livelihood and economy of Kodiak would be affected by the development of the proposed Pebble Mine, but if a major catastrophe were to occur, the effects would be felt very quickly and profoundly by all associated with the fishing industry.
To learn more about the Bristol Bay fishery and the proposed Pebble Mine visit http://www.SaveBristolBay.org.