If the walls could speak, the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth would have a story or two to tell.
The faint smell of the herring drying factories and smokehouse lingers on as the steaming wooden beams rise above the head, making it the perfect space to display Craig Easton’s beautiful Fisherwomen series.
Photographer Craig Easton, winner of the 2021 Sony World Photography Award, documents the overlooked members of the fishing industry: women.
Hollowing, skinning, smoking and preparing the fish as it arrives from the sea, women have always been instrumental in the success of the trade.
Speaking on a BBC Four loop on the show, Mr Easton said: “This is not about fisheries policy work. This is not about Brexit, it is not about of overfishing is not a commentary on the industry, it is truly a celebration of the contemporary and historical role that women have always played in the fishing industry.
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“Not just the industry, but the communities, because on the whole the men were at sea and the women were left to do everything else, from raising the children to selling the fish to transporting the fish. men to the boats on their backs so that they can go to sea in dry clothes. “
Easton followed the Scottish Fishing Lassies’ route along the east coast, documenting the women who now worked in these towns.
The exhibit tour made the same trip, arriving in Great Yarmouth for its final stop, as the Lassies would have done every winter.
The project was inspired by the original photographs of Hill & Adamson in Newhaven in the early 1840s and paintings by Winslow Homer, Isa and Robert Jobling, John McGhie from the 1880s to the 1920s.
Fisherwomen begins with some of the last remaining Scottish herring lassies; women who, from the 1800s to the 1970s, left home to follow the Shetland fleet to Great Yarmouth, gutting and salting the herring on the docks.
Large format film images are presented on a large scale and you are helpless in the eyes of women with such deep souls and rich stories.
Easton’s use of pale tones and shallow focus creates nostalgic and empathetic, soft and gentle images showing the richness of the skin of these weather-worn women and their dedication and hard work shown to industry for decades.
These images are juxtaposed by a series of four close-ups of black and white hands, their rich texture stopping you in your tracks.
While moving, Easton presents a series of black and white landscape images, mostly without people, of areas where women work and live.
The juxtaposition of the portraits with the contextual images immerses you in the life of the women of the show.
Finally, the exhibition ends with a selection of portraits of women in today’s industry. Easton’s photographic style changes here as the portraits become full-length, sharper and sharper. They have an energy in them, a dynamism of the present.
Easton’s portraits reflect his respect and admiration for his subjects. They are responsive and sobering, subtly portraying the pride, camaraderie, friendship and resilience of women in the workplace.
Fisherwomen is a rich, moving and simply magnificent documentation of heroines in a profession so important in the past and present of our county.
Originally slated to open in October 2020, the exhibition has been made possible with support from Arts Council England, Canson Infinity, Chau Digital, Northlink Ferries and The Scottish Fishermen’s Trust and is on view until September 19 at Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth.