Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Life at Sea (photo: Chris Mammone).

The hard life at sea

A local photographer was so inspired by the week he spent on a fishing trawler in the North Sea during his final year at uni that he decided to move back to Hastings in order to pursue his continuing passion to document the fishing industry. Hastings photographer Chris Mammone’s exhibition is one of many PhotoHastings shows currently on display in Hastings and St Leonards, and HOT reporter and photographer John Cole went along to the preview night to speak to Chris about his work.

Chris, whose exhibition Life at Sea, is now showing at St Mary in the Castle until 12 October, feels strongly about documenting Hasting’s beleaguered fishing industry, which he fears is in danger of disappearing altogether.

“During my last year at University of Gloucestershire, I thought it would be interesting to spend time on a fishing boat taking photos for my final degree show. I asked around, got no reply and then when I came back home there was a message saying to be in Brixham at five in the morning if I wanted to go out on the trawler. Thankfully, the short notice didn’t give me time to really think about what I was letting myself in for, because once I was on the boat I began to question my sanity – but it was too late by then!

“On the trawler the four men worked flat out, 24 hours a day, eight hours on, eight off. It’s very hard work and I certainly couldn’t do it. There’s a certain level of isolation working on the trawler and for those men with families, it’s especially difficult being away sometimes for long stretches of time.”

Chris’s image of a fisherman hauling in the nets in the middle of the night especially captures this feeling. With the rain lashing down and the sense of movment in one of his images, it’s almost like a still from A Perfect Storm – but a lot more real.

In spite of the endless repetition of the same work day in and day out, Chris managed to capture moments of lightness, such as his shot of fisherman Ronnie working to untangle the nets. Though the man is obviously working, there’s a quirky Elliott Erwitt feel to the image, a sense that he might be playfully hiding from his mates. 

Life at Sea (photo: Chris Mammone).

However, such light moments were rare, as the men worked hard to make a living, in spite of the unjust quotas.

“Because of the EU quota system of how much fish a boat could catch, they sometimes had to throw away huge catches of cod, simply because they’d be fined for bringing in fish over the limit. And regrettably, by the time the fishermen realised they were over the quota limit, most of the cod thrown back were dead. What a waste!

“In a way, during that week on the trawler, I became politicised because of the unfair quota system for UK fishermen. It seemed a natural progression to come back to Hastings to photograph the shore-based fishing fleet.

“Hastings is unique, as it’s one of the very few shore-based fishing fleets left in the UK. However, there’s a danger that it might not be around too much longer. Although there have been some recent changes to how much fish they can catch, the quota system still makes it very hard for Hastings fishermen to survive. I feel that it’s an important time to document the industry.

“My photos are a work in progress, as I’ve only been out with the Hastings fishermen a few times, and want to do a lot more.

“I’d love to produce a book about Hastings fishing, shot in black and white on film. I love the grittiness and rawness that it can capture. Some people might say that shooting such a story in b/w is a cliché, because it’s been done before. But I don’t care, it’s what I love doing.”

To see more of Chris’s work, click onto his website.

Showing alongside his work at St Mary in the Castle is John Stiles’ No Labels. John’s powerful black and white portraits of homeless individuals breaks the convention of the usual down-and-out photos of the homeless, instead portraying them as dignified, worthy human beings.

No Labels (photo: John Stiles).

To read more about John’s work, see Zelly Restorick’s previous article.

Both Chris and John’s work are part of PhotoHastings, a two-month celebration of stunning photo exhibitions by Hastings and St. Leonards-based photographers. Don’t miss it!

Posted 16:48 Thursday, Oct 9, 2014 In: Photography

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