Allan Sekula's Fish Story uses photography and text to document the enormous, globalised industry of trade. Divided into chapters, the work examines through photography and text the place of the sea as an in-between space of advanced capitalism, focusing on subjects such shipyard workers, post-industrial port communities and the ubiquitous shipping containers which are at once a sign of globalised trade, vital to its very being and pushed to the margins of visibility by a society, or system, that tends to attempt to make invisible the origins of its commodities.
As Benjamin H. D. Buchloh astutely observes in an essay written for the book form of the project, Sekula's work and wider practice seeks to engage through direct representation the labour which is removed from view, something he argues runs concurrently with modernist prohibition on representation, and specifically representation of labour - he uses here Bernd and Hilla Bechers' Typologies for an example of a labour that is represented conspicuously in its absence. As Buchcloh examines, Sekula's practice works in the discursive space between art photography and that 'lower' form of documentary photography. By engaging directly a photojournalistic means of photography Sekula is questioning the modernist hierarchy imposed on photography, an art form which has always sat uneasily at the art world table. Through his direct representation and use of photo-narrative he is consciously working in opposition to the modernist 'new objectivity' of the Bechers and of the de-skilled snapshot readymades of Ed Ruscha, as well as questioning the role of photojournalism, which has always been found in the world of high art only though appropriation and fragmentation. The body of work, then, can be seen as at once a critique of the role of photography as institutionalised by Western modernism, as well as, on a more simple level, a critique of the mechanisms of advanced capitalism, the lives of the people who are at once a part of its inner workings and who rely on it for survival, and perhaps more than anything a homage to the immensity of the sea.