Describing the collection of Al “The Shrimp Whisperer” Laudert’s art that was on display at Amalga Distillery is like a bizarre re-imagining of a famous “Forrest Gump” scene.
There was plane shrimp, shrimp with Betty Boop, dinosaur-eating shrimp, shrimp on a motorcycle and a few literal shrimp boats.
Laudert, who resides in Valdez, uses perspective and real shrimp to create photos that grace calendars and post cards, and he was in town Friday for a First Friday showing and meet and greet.
He took time to explain to the Capital City Weekly why he does what he does, and the amount of planning that goes into being the Shrimp Whisperer.
I started catching shrimp, sport fishing 20 years ago in Valdez, and I just fell in love with those. They’re just so cool looking. To catch them, snap their heads and throw them in the freezer, it’s done and no one else gets to appreciate them. I started taking the pictures just for fun. My daughters started giving me hell, after a couple of years, I had seven or eight hundred photos, and they said, ‘Dad, you’ve got some really good stuff. You’ve got to do something.’ I started with cards, and got more of a following, and I started the prints and the calendars.
Did you have an interest in perspective photography before?
Nope. Very little. My wife is a photography major, and I just like taking pictures.
Do you still eat the shrimp?
Absolutely. None go to waste.
Do you have any dream projects that you haven’t done yet?
I’ve got a garage full of props, my shop is loaded with them, and I’m retiring at the end of the year, and I’ll be able to focus a lot harder and heavier and getting some of the shots I’ve been waiting for done. I’ve got a hook and ladder truck in the garage that I’m going to have making a rescue from a burning building with some shrimp in it.
How much time does it take to set each shot?
From the time I get back to the harbor, I’ve got about two hours to do my photography before they start to lose their luster, so I’ve got to have my shots planned, my props all gathered and my camera with me.
How many photos do you take on average? Is it a weekly thing?
Hopefully it’ll be a lot more regular now that I’ll be retired. About every weekend, usually I’ll get a chance to get out there for one day or two and do the shots that I have planned.
What is the day job?
I work as a maintenance coordinator at the terminal down in Valdez.
Do your coworkers know about the hobby?
What do they think about it?
I’m a local hero.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org