The historic Welland Canal dates back to 1824 and is a very important piece of St. Catharines history. As a vital link to the St. Lawrence Seaway passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Midwestern Canada and the United States, the Canal is critical to the transportation of goods via cargo ships. It is truly amazing to see these massive ships being raised and lowered by water following the Niagara escarpment. What I am further drawn to are the inhabitants of these vessels. As the ships are traveling through the locks the crew on board emerge from within. The presence of these workers and the role they play on the ship is what I am most interested in. They live on these ships for months on end, leaving their families behind and forming surrogate families with their fellow crewmates. There is also a level of danger working on the freight ships and everyone is looking out for each others safety. My images capture individuals at a moment of pause or contemplation amongst the hustle and bustle of life on the ships.
While standing on the lock observation deck viewers are able to see at eye level into the compartments of the ships that would typically tower into the sky. This vantage point is the position from which I photograph. Getting a glimpse into the lives of these workers is fascinating.
Many ship employees from the Niagara region have been forced to choose jobs at sea due to the closure of many manufacturing plants in the area. In addition, workers receive a substantial pay increase to do the same position at sea. By securing a job on the freighters, workers are guaranteed hours that may not be available on land. Although the wages are substantially higher on the freight ships, one sacrifices work place safety and time at home.
Employees on Canadian freight ships such as Algoma Central Corporation are members of the Canadian Auto Workers Union Maritime Union, Unifor, Seafarers International Union, and Canadian Merchant Service Guild. I am not able to confirm whether or not the employees on international freight ships are unionized.
Documenting labour and labourers within the blue-collar working class is a theme that has been present in my work for the last few years. This project is a continuation of this work.