Visual artist Wes Modes uses a replica he built of a 1940s shanty boat to tell stories. Through video, photography, written stories, an art installation, and more he’s conveyed his experiences building the boat and living aboard it on a few different rivers over the past few years. This past summer, he and his crew wrapped up their most recent trip, which took them down the Sacramento River. In June 2018, they’ll be exploring and documenting the people and places of the Hudson River.

“Using research from fieldwork on the Upper Mississippi River and experiences from a variety of rivers in the midwest and West Coast, my goal is to create a powerful tool to reexamine the issues currently and historically faced by people living or working on the river,” Modes writes of his mission, “with particular attention to the invisible stories of native people, working people, people of color, and women, to create a multi-perspective and multi-path take on historical narrative, and to challenge assumptions about the importance of the commons and the role in society of people living at the fringe.”

Read and see some beautiful stuff on his site, “A Secret History of American River People,” and catch a glimpse of his faithful companion Hazel.