John Erp: Eye for Line

The cover image for the Harbor Guide this year is courtesy of John Erp, a Sitka-based photographer, sailor and troller. We reached Erp as he was rigging his trolling poles on one of  his two vessels at the work float this spring. He lives on one vessel or the other.

John Erp

John Erp

Erp said the cover photo – which he has not named — was of an older wooden sailboat moored in downtown Juneau circa 2000. Erp, now 65, had just completed an intensive summer program at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography.

“What caught my attention was all the converging angles of the bow spit, chain and lines,” Erp said. He then printed his black-and-white photo in sepia tones. The result resembled a painting. “It has an artistic quality, they say in photographic terms, but it hasn’t been manipulated at all (on the computer),” he said.

Erp now works almost entirely with digital cameras, but he started taking pictures on a 35mm film camera in high school. His portfolio includes many boats, trains and planes and numerous architectural studies, including old wooden cannery buildings. He admits a taste for the aesthetic possibilities of wooden pilings.

rigging_711In the 1980’s Erp took the state ferry from Puget Sound to Haines. He was able to visit communities up and down the Panhandle.

“I fell in love with Sitka, even though it was a number of years until I could get back,” he said.

Erp split his time between Alaska, Washington and Montana, where he owned property. In 1999, he got a permanent moorage in Sitka. In 2003-2004, Erp served as a civilian sailor for the U.S. Navy, bringing supplies to the Persian Gulf under the Military Sealift Command program. Erp also worked for the Alaska Marine Highway, much of it helping man the fast ferry, Fairweather.

Now retired from the ferry system, Erp said he hopes to have more time to contemplate his art and take photos.

“You need to have time to think about it,” he said. “To indulge yourself in that luxury.”