Book Review: Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind: 40 Portraits of Seafarers by Seafarers

by Dr. Jason Zuidema, NAMMA/ICMA

ITF Seafarers’ Trust, Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind: 40 Portraits of Seafarers by Seafarers, Wall & Vivien Publishing 2021, 96pp.

This beautiful picture book is the fruit of a second photo campaign of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, launched in March 2021, with winners announced on June 25, The Day of the Seafarer. It is a book that ought to be read and shared by all those in seafarers’ welfare. The book is high-quality, with crisp printed photos and accompanying short texts. Though the photos are already striking on their own, when combined with the texts, they give us meaningful insight into the joys and challenges of seafarers during the pandemic.

The principal goal of the collection is to highlight the experiences and contributions of seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Katie Higginbottom, Head of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, gets to the heart of why publishing these photos is important at this time: “The seafarers contributing to this book challenge you to see them as individuals; people who take pride in their work, have aspirations to lead fulfilling lives, and have families that depend on them…This book is intended as a reminder of the existence of real people behind the global shipping industry.” (13)

The book’s 40 photos are by Filipino seafarers in the majority, but there are notable photos also from seafarers of Nigeria, India, Ukraine, South Korea and Ghana. As Higginbottom remarks, the photos “convey the drama, the danger, the boredom, the fun and the camaraderie of seafaring.” (13)

In the preface to the book, IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim reflects on the importance of this book, “As we transition to a post-pandemic world, we must ensure that the sacrifices that these individuals made are not forgotten.” He remarks, “I applaud each and every one of the seafarer photographers whose work was selected, and I am happy to say that your striking images brought back fond memories of my time at sea.” (9)

Each photo is captioned with words from the seafarer who submitted the photo. Rustum Sciades T. Duque, an OS from the Philippines writes, “Most of the people misinterpret the real life of being a seafarer. They always believe that we are living the good life, but in reality, we are actually facing hard battles every day.” (27)

Many photos help to understand better the mental world in which seafarers navigate. Joem Paul Nemiada, a Third Officer from the Philippines, wrote: “Sometimes, while on watch especially on open seas with no targets ahead, a bunch of thoughts come crowding into our heads. Such as tasks to be done, homesickness, problems you’re going through and your dreams. These could lead to anxiety as is inevitable. ” (93)

The number of photos in the collection also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust. The Trust was set up in 1981 to advance the wellbeing of maritime workers, seafarers and their families. The Chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Trust, David Heindel, underlines the value of this book for seafarers: “We need to talk more about the undervalued work of seafarers and to share the stories of those who transport essential food, fuel, medical supplies and consumer goods around the world.” (10)

Contact the ITF Seafarers’ Trust for more information.