I first saw these items and thought they were the coolest little gewgaws. I had never heard of or seen such a thing as a fish decoy. They actually go back over a thousand years in more primitive forms. Master carvers have over the years refined them to a point of being ultra-realistic, and possibly to valuable to use.
One cuts a hole in the ice on a lake, covering them selves with a tent of some form. The tent makes it dark so that the light comes up through the hole allowing one to see down into the lake. Suspended on a string, the decoy is maneuvered to appear to “swim” in the water. The hunter/gatherer patiently waits for a large fish to approach, spears the fish and takes sustenance back to camp. During the harsh winters, the practice was a matter of survival, not the modern pastime we know as ice-fishing.
I had been thinking about doing something with fishing related items for a while. Having shot a number of items for a client a few years ago sparked my initial interest. I felt that capturing this kind of item on a camera with a larger capture size and colour space would be advantageous. I knew a number of people with various collections that it was possible to draw items from.
Now here is a little hard earned lesson. You can think about shooting a project for a long time, intellectualizing how you are going to approach every little detail. The problem can arise that you go to shoot the intended subject and it has been altered drastically, or worse, it no longer exists! In the case of one of my collectors, he unfortunately passed away. With a couple of friends, we have been helping the widow try and organize and make sense of the various collections, she is uncertain about. I thought it prudent to borrow the items that interested me, and get to work before the collection is possibly disseminated.
If you have a brilliant idea to shoot, it is better to actually pursue it than to over analyze it. The production of images will lead to other ideas and concepts that you never would have imagined. The fish decoys were a part of the collection that I had seen ten years before and completely forgotten about!
Decoys by master carver Sonny Bashore.