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Fisherwomen

10 July 2021 to 19 September 2021 

A stunning photographic exhibition by 2021 Sony World Photography Award winning photographer Craig Easton, documenting the heritage and tradition of women working in the Fishing industry, past and present.

Women have always played a critical role in the fishing industry: from the very early days they mended nets, gutted fish and baited lines but they also did all the domestic work and raised the children. They even carried their men out to the fishing boats on their backs to stop the fishermen’s feet from getting wet.

The East Coast fisherwomen, or Scottish Herring Lassies as they were known locally in Great Yarmouth, were a common sight from the mid 1800s to the 1970s as they gutted and packed the herring into barrels on the bustling quaysides, undertaking an annual migration alongside the migrating Herring down from the Scottish Isles to Great Yarmouth. 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, which documented these public displays of women hard at work, Easton has created a series of portraits which reflect the work of women in the industry today and documents the stories of some of the last known surviving Herring Lassies, who are now aged in their 80s, 90s and 100s.

Today fisherwomen are no longer seen on the quayside but are to be found mostly behind closed doors, working in large fish processing factories, smokehouses and small family businesses all around the East Coast. Although less visible, they are still working hard, feeding the nation and providing for their families. They are fiercely proud of what they do. “I’ve never had a job like it,” says Louise Hutchins, “it’s constant banter. It’s piecework and I was one of the fastest gutters – it took me a couple of months to learn it and a year to pick up speed. My hand used to cramp up and I used to stab my finger all the time.”

In this exhibition, Craig Easton’s portraits celebrate the crucial role these women still play in the fishing industry, drawing a clear line between the heritage of the ‘herring lassies’ and the fisherwomen of today, leaving a lasting record of the Fisherwomen of the 21st Century.

The exhibition has been made possible with support from Arts Council England, Canson Infinity, Chau Digital, Northlink Ferries and The Scottish Fishermen’s Trust.  

Originally scheduled to open in October 2020, the exhibition, which has been travelling down the UK following the route of the migrating Herring and Herring Lassies, has now finally reached the port of Great Yarmouth, where new, unseen local portraits and stories join those of the Scottish and Hull Fisherwomen, completing this fascinating story and journey of these important Women.

Book admission tickets here

Image Courtesy of Craig Easton, www.craigeaston.com