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Eric Gourlan


Fishermen Estonia


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        This is the history of an encounter at coast of the Baltic Sea, more preciselin in Estonia in the region of Paernu. The Finnish Gulf is a gigantic sea which has been frozen since February. Miniatures of silhouettes emerge against the horizon: "The fishermen on the ice are already in my frame". I approach them with careful steps, not too convinced that the ice will hold. The further I walk the more the ice is cracking under my feet. The first contact is not easy, as I do not speak Estonian, but I try to explain with my hands and justify my being there among them. The fishermen are typical Estonians, tall, slender and standing up against the cold with a warm heart. They do not understand why I want to take pictures of them, but they have already accepted me in their midst. While they tell me a lot of fishermen anecdotes they notice that the ice has finally been broken with the help of an ice-pick and a first hole emerges. Around 60 m from this place a second one is made and a net, which is packed around a stick, is let down with hands that are icecold. The work of those fishermen is very hard. They spread a net in the water and hold on to the rope above the ice. They would loose the net which is hung out below, if they let go of the rope. "Success, the net is spread under the water". This process is repeated several times during the day at different places that they reach with their sledges.
        Similar to old sea dogs, they are solitary in their passion for fishing, they fish in small groups, sell the fruits of their labor to the surrounding community and are under surveillance of the outpost Munalaiu.
"Mrs. Radio" as they call her, ensures the safety of these men, "her grandchildren" as she calls them! She has her ear permanently at the radio; the lives of these men depend on her vigilance. There have been some dramas in the past , but since Mrs. Radio is in control everything has been under control ......... hopefully it will remain like that.
        With the dawn of the day the silhouettes disappear and leave the ice like the velvet of a dark night. After several days, it it time to hit the road again: Direction "North", the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa show me their remains. I see unforgettable portraits of people rooted in their atolls, reserved, confined to their huts. Their eyes talk about experience and the intensity of life. The depth of how they look at me make me more and more ephemeral with every picture I take.

Eric Gourlan