For many Muscovites an escape might mean a weekend at the dacha or a train ride to St Petersburg. But for Alexander Gerasimov, who had spent all his life in the city, the prized destination was Sakhalin, once known as the prison island of Russia’s Far East — the kind of place you’d want to escape from rather than put at the top of your bucket list.
Sakhalin is almost as far from Moscow as New York, and as Gerasimov puts it, “so far from home, that there’s no way back.” Working in an office last year and realising his life was not going in the direction he wanted, Gerasimov decided that he wanted a change from the city. More specifically he wanted to be near the ocean. “None of my family or friends had ever been at sea,” he says. Yet in a few days he had bought a ticket, packed his things and left, and a month later joined a freezer trawler where he would work as a sailor for the next six months.
“We left in June 2014 from the city of Kholmsk on Sakhalin Island. We worked around the Strait of Tartary first, then crossed the Sea of Japan to the Sea of Okhotsk, near the La Pérouse Strait and the Japanese coast. Then we continued through the Sea of Okhotsk to the Magadan region, Kuril Island and Kamchatka. For those six months we docked only three times for 16 days in total. The rest of the time was spent on the boat whatever the weather,” Gerasimov says. “A couple times we were caught in really powerful storms. At such moments you feel like a grain of sand that the ocean will just carry away.”
The photos reflect the everyday hardships of living and working on the ocean. “We caught mainly white fish. There are no weekends or vacations: on a normal day you work for six hours at a time, and for the next six you socialise.” Photographing the experience was never the objective for the trip, but Gerasimov, who is currently based in Kamchatka, continues to take his camera with him on his travels. This summer he journeyed on a kayak for 100 days around the edge of Lake Baikal.