Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Graham and Darren Goglan © John Cole

Graham and Darren Goglan.

Faces of the sea

One of the main Hastings attractions is The Stade, the beach, the boats and, most importantly, the fishermen. And hearing there is an exhibition of fishermen – Generations – by local photographer John Cole, HOT reporter Lauris Morgan-Griffiths talked to John about his on-going, 20-year project  photographing these tough, brave men.

American photo-jourmalist and fellow HOT contributor, John Cole came down from London in 1992 to photograph the Hastings fishermen in what he thought would be a one-off visit. However, Hastings got under his skin and the project turned into a labour of love; he returned to the Stade over the next six months to photograph these remarkable men.

Jason & Jimmy Adams © John Cole

Jason and Jimmy Adams.

Fishermen are a particular breed of men;  it’s a hard life and still a very dangerous one. It’s no wonder that they stick together, they know and respect the sea and the very real dangers of it. For a photographer those faces are a gift to photograph – all that weathering and experience is etched on their faces.

“I fell in love with Hastings then and in 2000 we moved to the town. Ever since we’ve lived here, it’s been in the back of my mind to update the work I did almost 20 years ago. But as so often happens with creative plans, life has a funny way of getting in the way.”

In 2012 he met Yasmin Ornsby of the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society (HFPS) and  shared his ideas with her. She encouraged him to update the photographic project, but this time emphasising the generations of fishing families. Fishing in Hastings has always been a family business, with some of the family names going back over 800 years.

Laura & Michael Edmunds © John Cole

Laura and Michael Edmunds.

This time both John and Yasmin felt it was especially important that he photograph the women of the fishing community, who play such an important and vital part in this industry.

“To be honest, this is a work in progress, as I’ve really only scratched the surface of recording the inter-connected generations of Hastings fishing families. I want to continue with the project until I’ve photographed all the different overlapping generations of fishing families. This could take quite a while!”

The fishermen know the sea, its unpredictability and its mercurial nature. More difficult to cope with is governments and EU policies. It’s no secret that the fishing industry is in crisis, especially so in Hastings. This financially precarious and sometimes dangerous profession does little to attract a younger generation.

John says, “I sincerely hope that with the Herculean efforts of HFPS, the battle for fair quotas will be won and fishing will again be a profession that attracts a new generation of men and women.”


All photographs by John Cole – more can be viewed here.

All proceeds from the sale of the photographs and postcards will be donated to the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society to help them in their battle to get a fair quota for the Hastings’ fishing fleet.

This project would not have been possible without the support and assistance of HFPS, Hastings FLAG and the European Fisheries Fund.

Generations: Hastings Fishing Families Stade Hall Gallery, 2-14 November, 11am-4pm.


Posted 09:45 Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013 In: Photography

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