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Photographer Ruddy Roye fishes along Lake Erie with his camera

Jamaican-born photographer Ruddy Roye has only caught one fish in his life, but he understands the patience needed to catch one.

A few years ago, Roye moved to Northeast Ohio from Brooklyn, and he recently discovered the allure of Cleveland fishing along the Lake Erie shore at the East 55th Street Marina.

He's fishing not for walleye, but for images with his camera.

Fisherman with hat sits at marina fishing in Lake Erie.
Ruddy Roye

“Actually, whenever I talk to [the fishermen], I say to them that, ‘Me getting an image equates to you getting one fish,’” Roye said. “I'm waiting for that one fish to come into my frame.”

From talking with people who are fishing, Roye said he realized that many see the popular fishing spot as a sanctuary from the city’s gun violence.

Silhouette of fisherman at Lake Erie marina during sunset.
Ruddy Roye

“The more I delved into each particular fisherman's story, the more I got it's a place of peace away from Kinsman and East Cleveland,” Roye said.

For more than 20 years, Roye was based out of New York City as a freelance photojournalist working for publications like Time, The New York Times, The New Yorker, ESPN, Ebony and Essence magazines.

Mother helps young daughter with hair while son plays Spiderman on the stoop of apartment with cat in the background.
Ruddy Roye

He moved his family to Cleveland Heights after a successful residency with the Cleveland Print Room and the Cleveland Public Library in 2019.

“I remember coming to Cleveland every other weekend, driving around. Then I realized that there were things here that I could photograph,” he said. “Of all the states that I have worked in, lived in, Cleveland afforded me a space that made me feel like I was a photographer again.”

Now Roye’s focus is the men and women who fish for walleye and perch at the marina.

Fisherman loses fish as his line snaps at Lake Erie marina.
Ruddy Roye

“It takes time to make somebody feel comfortable with you being in their relaxation space. In their space of, ‘I want to get into my Zen right now. I don't really need a camera shoved into my face,’” he said.

Roye said he’s a people person which helps him talk to those he photographs before he picks up his camera.

Photographer takes photo of fisherman as he casts his line into Lake Erie.
Dave DeOreo
Ideastream Public Media
Ruddy Roye photographs Cleveland fisherman as he casts his line into Lake Erie at East 55th Street Marina.

“I always try to connect on a human level,” he said. “I'm trying to tell a story that also exists in me. It's very rare that I go outside of me to tell a story. I usually connect with something that I've already gone through, I've seen, and I try to make that connection.”

His art is a self-help tool of sorts.

“I've always felt like photography was the thing that I used to grow to be a better person, to be a better man, to be a better seer, to be a better philosopher, to be a better father,” he said. “Photography is something I hold dearly, and I do appreciate the way it has allowed me to be a better person.”

Roye plans to continue with this series and expand upon it for a future exhibition.

Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.