When Christian Stemper visited the small island of Paros in 2010, he photographed some of the characters he encountered on the 13-mile-long island. In particular, the fishermen fascinated him, as did their traditional wooden boats, or kaïkis. Fishermen have a special relationship with their boats and often give them female names, Stemper said, in honor of their mothers and daughters. But when he returned to the island a few years later, many of the boats had been destroyed, abandoned, or sold to tourists. “And the ones left will soon be gone—not only on Paros, but on all the Greek islands,” Stemper said. He worked tirelessly to document not only the men who dedicate their lives to the sea, but also their kaïkis. “They’re a special kind of human,” Stemper told CNN. “For them, it’s just the boat and the sea and the fish.”
The culmination of this work is the book Lupimaris, or The Wolves of the Sea, which features 99 boats and 31 fishermen in exquisite detail. The men are photographed in black and white, while their boats are captured in a brilliant color. Every crease on Stemper’s subjects’ weather-worn faces can be matched to a detail on their boats; wrinkles become ropes, peeling paint becomes the folds of a smile, creating the effect of a dual portrait. First there is the man, and then his way of life.