Craig Easton: Fisherwomen at the Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life
- Credit: Kate Wolstenholme
If walls could talk, the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth would have a story or two to tell.
The faint smell of the Herring Curing Works and Smokehouse lingers as wooden smoking beams tower overhead, making it the perfect space to exhibit Craig Easton's truly beautiful Fisherwomen series.
2021 Sony World Photography Award-winning photographer Craig Easton documents the overlooked members of the fishing industry: women.
Gutting, skinning, smoking and preparing the fish as they arrive from the sea, the women have constantly been crucial to the success of the trade.
During a BBC Four programme on loop at the show, Mr Easton says: "This is not a political piece of work about fishing. It is not about Brexit, it's not about overfishing, it's not a comment on the industry. It really is a celebration of the contemporary and the historical role that women have always played in the fishing industry.
"Not just the industry, but the communities, as by and large, the men were at sea and the women were left to do everything else, from child-rearing, to selling the fish, to carrying the men out to the boats on their backs so they could go to sea in dry clothing."
Easton followed the route of the Scottish Fishing Lassies down the East coast, documenting the women working in those towns now.
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The exhibition tour has taken the same journey, arriving in Great Yarmouth for its final stop, as the Lassies would have done each winter.
The project was inspired by the original photographs of Hill & Adamson in Newhaven in the early 1840s and in the paintings of Winslow Homer, Isa and Robert Jobling, John McGhie from the 1880s to 1920s.
Fisherwomen begins with some of the last remaining Scottish Herring Lassies; women who, from the 1800s to the 1970s, would leave home to follow the fleet from Shetland to Great Yarmouth, gutting and salt pickling the herring on quaysides.
Large-format film images are presented on a massive scale and you are helplessly drawn into the eyes of women with souls so deep and stories so rich.
Easton's use of pale tones and shallow focus creates images which are nostalgic and empathic, gentle and soft, showing the richness of these women's weather-worn skin and their dedication and hard work shown to the industry for decades.
These images are juxtaposed by a series of four black and white close-ups of hands, their rich texture stopping you in your tracks.
Moving through, Easton presents a series of black and white, predominately people-less, landscape images of the areas where the women work and live.
The juxtaposition of the portraits with the contextual images absorbs you into the lives of the women in the show.
Finally, the exhibition concludes with a selection of portraits of women in the present-day industry. Easton's photographic style changes here as the portraits become full-length, sharper and starker. They have an energy to them, a vibrancy of the present.
Easton's portraits reflect his respect and admiration for his subjects. They are sensitive and thought-provoking, subtly portraying the pride, camaraderie, friendship and resilience of the women at work.
Fisherwomen is a rich, emotive and simply beautiful documentation of heroines within a trade so prominent in our county's past and present.
Originally scheduled 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 show until the 19 September at the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth.