Everybody loves a good adventure story. The 4,000 km. migration of the sockeye salmon is one of the most powerful adventure stories I’ve heard, and Paul Colangelo, an environmental documentary photographer, was able to capture this journey in extraordinary color and detail. In his photo story, The Great Migration, Colangelo followed the sockeye salmon on their journey home to the Adams River outside Kamloops, British Columbia.
Do fish have feelings? Clicking through the photos Colangelo took of the sockeye salmon, there’s a film of sheer exhaustion in the salmon’s eyes. In the photo of the unlucky group of salmon caught in the fishing net, the fish look pretty unamused, annoyed even, and one of the fish is poking his jaw through the netting as if to say “Come on, let me out already.” Or maybe I’m just anthropomorphizing.
But The Great Migration isn’t just a bunch of photos of fish. Colangelo was able to capture the human element of the story as well, including photos of fishermen standing on a foggy river and a woman hanging salmon in her backyard smokehouse. In this story, humans are the main antagonist, adding to the already long list of dangers and obstacles the sockeye salmon have to get through to return home. But there’s also something incredibly relatable about seeing this against-the-odds journey of a creature just trying to fulfill the universal goal of reproduction and then die in peace and have its body be used to feed the earth. Because in the end, aren’t we all just fish in the big river of life. Or something else I might have heard on Pocahontas.
The Great Migration entered the world as more than just a photo story. Nancy Macdonald, a writer at Maclean’s used Colangelo’s photos as part of a written story which helped provide context to the images. Suddenly, the photo of an older man gutting a pair of salmon in front of a group of wide-eyed children became less unsettling and more educational.
And Colangelo himself took his story to outlets like Twitter and Instagram, posting captivating photos with intriguing captions to inform his followers about what he’s doing and why.The Great Migration is far beyond just a story about fish swimming and dying and being eaten by trees and humans. It’s a story about perseverance and the impact we have on the earth and the cycle of life. And Colangelo did an excellent job of capturing that. The truth is, in the end we’re all just dust in the wind. Or fish in the river. Or I don’t know, here’s a video: