New book “Where Water is Gold” highlights beauty of Bristol Bay

Jun 28, 2016

After two crowdfunding efforts and nearly five years of work, photographer Carl Johnson has published his book “Where Water is Gold,” which focuses on the wildlife and people of Bristol Bay. The book is available from retailers now.

A view of the Bay at dusk from "Where Water is Gold."
Credit Carl Johnson

“I wanted to go deeper into the way of life than previous photographic studies of the region,” Johnson said. “I channeled my longtime passion for photography, and my efforts in conservation photography, to tell the story [of] Bristol Bay.”

While natural beauty is on display in “Where Water is Gold,” Johnson said that his book is as much about nature as it is about the people of the Bay. In Johnson’s view, the abundant water and food resources of the region cause its residents to have a very different view of wealth.

Strips of salmon hung to smoke in a photo from "Where Water is Gold."
Credit Carl Johnson

“I have had more than one person tell me that they measured wealth by whether their freezers were full,” Johnson said “When you think about what makes that type of wealth possible, it all centers around the incredible network of water in the region.”

“I want people to understand the interconnectedness of this way of life - the people of the region - to this incredible resource,” Johnson said.

As he took photos for his book, Johnson traveled across Bristol Bay, visiting Dillingham, Alegnagik, Nondalton, and King Salmon among other locations. He also traveled with groups into the Katmai and Lake Clark national parks. However, Johnson says his experiences at fish camps were among the most memorable.

"It was amazing to watch people working... the skills I saw at fish camp were extremely impressive," Johnson said. "People I spoke to had some of their earliest memories at fish camp."

Carl Johnson, photographer and author of "Where Water is Gold."
Credit Josh Martinez

Johnson said he was inspired to capture the Bay in photographs after doing legal work pertaining to the Pebble exploration. From there, it was a matter of funding his work.

“All told, I spent around $25,000 for the fieldwork, which ranged from air fare and lodging to paying for gasoline… and renting snowmachines,” Johnson said. “I also received in-kind contributions from lodges and an outfitting company."

Though he lives in Anchorage, Johnson said that he wants to continue visiting and documenting Bristol Bay and its people following the release of his book.

Credit Carl Johnson

Credit Carl Johnson

Credit Carl Johnson