In black and white: Venezuelan fisherman among oil ruins

In black and white: Venezuelan fisherman among oil ruins

The landscape of Venezuela’s once robust oil industry lies all around fishermen and their families who live in villages clustered on the edge of Lake Maracaibo.

Their struggles on a briny bay fouled by petroleum seeps and derelict oil rigs are etched onto their faces and stained into their clothes.

Seeing these people and this place on an earlier reporting trip, veteran Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd knew he had to go back. This time, he set down his lightning-fast digital Canon and spread the tripod of his 19th century-style box camera to make black and white portraits of the fisherman and the industrial decay they call home.

The Argentine-born photographer had turned the lens of his box camera before on subjects in Guatemala, Afghanistan, Mexico and the streets of his home-base of Lima, Peru, documenting a spectrum of life’s emotions, from joy to tragedy. He felt the slower pace and mood of box photography would help capture the poignancy and pain of Cabimas where fisherman live and work among idle, gray machinery.

In this July 3, 2019 photo, fisherman Alirio Jose Lugano poses for the picture after a journey on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

“In the end, it was a story about the oil industry and people,” Abd said. “It was an industry built 50 years ago, but nowadays is broken, and somehow the black and white photos suggest that.”

At sunrise, the men of Cabimas wade into the lake to harvest shrimp, fish and crabs. Women wait in the shade of shacks where they hand wash shellfish coated in oil. The workday is done when the fishermen unbolt their skiff motors and stow them on the banks for safekeeping. 

Having heard their stories and observed their lives once before, Abd knew he would return, this time lugging along his box camera. “I thought it was a good idea to complete what I already had and to see the same story in a different way, in a more poetic way,” he said.

In this July 8 16, 2019 photo, men gather on top of an oil pump jack run by the state owned PDVSA that is not working for lack of maintenance is seen in Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 8 16, 2019 photo, men gather on top of an oil pump jack run by the state owned PDVSA that is not working for lack of maintenance is seen in Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 10, 2019 photo, fisherman Jose Gregorio Romero poses for the picture after a journey fishing crabs on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this May 18, 2019 photo, objects on the shoreline covered with oil witness the destruction caused by the neglected and lack of maintenance of the state owned PDVSA in and around Lake Maracaibo, Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 4, 2019 photo, fishermen Erick Alejandro poses for the picture at the end of their journey in Lake Maracaibo, Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 5, 2019 photo, fishermen get ready to start a new work day in crab fishing in Maracaibo lake, Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 11, 2019 photo, fisherman Antonio Tello poses for the picture with her daughter Genesis Tello while cleaning oil stained crabs freshly caught by him from Lake Maracaibo, in Cabimas, Venezuela. “We have spent a lifetime of fishing, 7 years ago this lake was clean, we have to fight now with all that amount of oil. Now we just have to survive". (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this May 18, 2019 photo, an oil drenched overall use by a fisherman dries in a house near La Salina, Venezuela's state-run PDVSA crude oil shipping terminal, on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 3, 2019 photo, fisherman Alejandro Elizalzabal poses for the picture after a journey on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 3, 2019 photo, fishing families Elizalzabal and Silva poses for the picture outside on of their houses in front of Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 10, 2019 photo, fisherman Milton Pena poses for the picture after a journey fishing crabs on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 8, 2019 photo, an abandoned state-run PDVSA oil platform on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 3, 2019 photo, the owner of the fishing boats, Giovani Blanco, right, poses for a picture with his assistants while repairing the engines damaged due to oil caused by the neglected and lack of maintenance of the state owned PDVSA in and around Lake Maracaibo, Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 12, 2019 photo, fishermen David Ortiz, poses for the picture after a day work on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 4, 2019 photo, fishermen Kelvin Alcala poses for the picture at the end of their journey in Lake Maracaibo, Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 8 16, 2019 photo, oil machinery run by the state owned PDVSA that is not working for lack of maintenance is seen in Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 3, 2019 photo, fisherman Juzman Garcia, 40, poses for the picture after a journey on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 10, 2019 photo, fisherman Emanuel Salcedo, 34 poses for the picture with her daughter Emilialsen Salcedo, 7, after a journey fishing crabs on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this May 18, 2019 photo, fisherman William Vilchez poses for the picture on a boat while arriving to the shoreline covered with oil caused by the neglected and lack of maintenance of the state owned PDVSA in and around Lake Maracaibo, Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 5, 2019 photo, fishermen get ready to start a new work day in crab fishing in Maracaibo lake, Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 3, 2019 photo, Fabiola Elizalzabal cleans the fish caught by her father near Venezuela's state-run PDVSA crude oil shipping terminal called La Salina, on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 12, 2019 photo, Romuel Sambrea fishermen called "Tripero" poses for the picture after a day work on Lake Maracaibo at Cabimas, Venezuela. "A lot of oil, the situation here is very difficult, now all this disaster is caused by the oil. I have 4 children, I like fishing and I can feed my family. I am a baker, but I can't live with just one job. ” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this July 8 16, 2019 photo, a damaged coach is seen outside a fisherman house in Cabimas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)


Text from the AP News story, In black and white: Venezuelan fisherman among oil ruins.

Photos by Rodrigo Abd