Jeju Haenyeo: Women Divers on Jeju Island • David Alan Harvey • Magnum Photos

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Jeju Haenyeo: Women Divers on Jeju Island

American Photographer David Alan Harvey captures the rapidly diminishing way of life of the women of Jeju that have made their living diving for fish for hundreds of years

David Alan Harvey

David Alan Harvey On days when Haenyeo collect conches, they walk with light steps along a path with two very different sides. On one side, the shallow seabed of the Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, and on the other, (...)
David Alan Harvey One swim fin kick and a Haenyeo heads for the bottom. I am now starting to get into the water with these women free divers. In water and underwater photography is not my thing, yet I just cannot fi (...)
David Alan Harvey Haenyeo enter the water confident that their intimate relationship with the sea will protect them from danger. There is a mysterious, otherworldly connection between the sea and the women. Jeju Isl (...)
David Alan Harvey The enigmas of the sea unfold before the eyes of a Haenyeo, but she has no time to consider them. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey Catching octopuses. Haenyeo can hold their breath for more than 2 minutes. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey No sooner had the group of Haenyeo I was diving with entered the water when one of them snatched an octopus from its hiding place under a rock. Twgetting 5-10 in a day along with sea urchins and ab (...)
David Alan Harvey The sea of Jeju is filled with enormous rock, an endless expanse of granite and black basalt. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey Just before entering the sea, Haenyeo exchange friendly talk to relieve their tension while making sure everything is in order for muljil (gathering seafood). Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey Haenyeo arrive by boat after a day of diving for shellfish and octopus. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey The scene of muljil (gathering seafood), as peaceful as the rippled water, Haenyeo dive between floating white taewak (buoy), and make a “hoi” sound when they resurface to take a breath. Jeju Islan (...)
David Alan Harvey The tradition of sharing and discussion after a dive lives on today for Haenyeo. Instant ramen tastes even better after their arduous work. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey A Haenyeo gets on a scooter to go home after having worked in the sea all day long and enjoying a break with her fellow Haenyeo afterwards. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. Handling conches and abalones at the 'House of Haenyeo' restaurant. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey A neighbor is warmly welcomed by a Haenyeo and her granddaughter, while her grandson jumps with abandon into the air. Jeju Island, South Korea. 2014. © David Alan Harvey | Magnum Photos
David Alan Harvey Mother and daughter free diving Haenyeo team. Kisoon Kim,65, gets an affectionate kiss from her daughter Kyungyok Kang, 35, who is by far the youngest Haenyeo I have come across. Jeju Island, Sout (...)
David Alan Harvey My photographing in Korea is over. I want to give very special humble thank you to all the Haenyeo I came to admire for their resilience, free spirit, sense of humor, and warmth. These women divers (...)
David Alan Harvey A lone Haenyeo on her own waits for a boat to pick her up. I finish tomorrow my essay here in South Korea. This project on the women free divers is nothing but inspirational. I am in gratitude for (...)

Jeju Haenyeo – Heroines of the Sea, Women Divers on Jeju Island

“Jeju is surrounded by sea and Hallasan volcano is located at its center: it is an island and a mountain, at the same time. Villages exist along its mountain ranges, on its grassland, and around barren farmland. Historically, the people of Jeju saw the sea as fearful, dangerous, and fraught – something that made life difficult. Men were reluctant to take on any work that involved interaction with the raging sea. But for the women, in particular for those who lived in coastal villages, this fear had to be overcome: they were expected to dive into those treacherous waters for a living.” – from the essay by Kil-un Hyun

“I stayed in Jeju for about a month and continued to be inspired by Haenyeo every day. I want to give a very special and humble thank you to all Haenyeo who made me feel at home. I came to admire their resilience, free spirit, sense of humor, and warmth. These women divers showed me a whole new world. Bobbing around out there in the frigid Pacific on their little foam floats and then kicking down without oxygen tanks to pick up a few abalones off the ocean floor was simply something to witness. I was so honored to be in their presence.” – David Alan Harvey

"Bobbing around out there in the frigid Pacific on their little foam floats and then kicking down without oxygen tanks to pick up a few abalones off the ocean floor was simply something to witness"

- David Alan Harvey