Bold new photographic exhibition celebrates the significant role of women in the fishing industry

A compelling new photographic exhibition that pays homage to the integral role women have played in the fishing industry will open this weekend at the Shetland Museum and Archives in a collaboration between Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Arts.

Mary Williamson, Whalsay

The exhibition which is called ‘Fisherwomen’ is part of a national touring show and is the work of social documentary photographer Craig Easton. It explores the work of women along the historic route of the old herring fleet from Shetland to Great Yarmouth and their work in the processing of the fishing fleets’ catch.

Craig Easton is a multi award-winning photographer whose work is deeply rooted in the documentary tradition. His work mixes portraiture, landscape and reportage and incorporates audio in a research-based practice that weaves a narrative between contemporary experience and history.

The show includes large-format photographic portraits and audio interviews of long-retired gutters from Shetland alongside similarly large-scale portraits of women working in the fish processing industry today.

Janet, Scalloway

The exhibition is presented in three parts: ‘Fisherwomen’ - contemporary portraits of women working in the fish processing industry; ‘Heritage’ - a photographic study of the hands and faces of the ‘herring lassies’; and ‘Journey’ - evocative black and white landscapes of former herring stations along the east cost of Britain mirroring the route that the fisherwomen took by land travelling from port to port gutting and packing the herring.

The hands that gut the herring I

Craig Easton said: "Fisherwomen is a celebration of the centuries long tradition of women working in fishing, connecting that heritage with those working in factories and processing houses today. Shetland was always the place where the herring season started and for me it is both the spiritual home of this project and the point at which the story begins… I am delighted to be bringing the work ‘home’.”

Hazel Sutherland, chief executive of Shetland Amenity Trust said: “We are honoured to be showing this exhibition which has huge relevance to Shetland and we hope will be of interest to a wide range of people. The underlying theme is one of connection and the sense of people and place. It demonstrates the hard-working women behind the fishing industry and celebrates the valuable contribution that they made and continue to make. The exhibition is a poignant testimony to the historical and contemporary importance of these women.”

Fethaland, Shetland

Graeme Howell, chief executive of Shetland Arts said: “Since hosting Craig Easton’s exhibition ‘Sixteen’ on hoardings on King Harald Street in 2019 in partnership with Hjaltland Housing Association, Shetland Arts has been working to bring his new show ‘Fisherwomen’ to Shetland. I am delighted we were able to work with Shetland Amenity Trust to realise this ambition, celebrating the women of the fishing communities, captured by Craig’s powerful portraits. I am looking forward to finally seeing it here, where it has so much relevance.”

Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Arts will be delivering a series of school and community events which will include photographic and archive inspired writing workshops as well as a herring inspired social evening.

The exhibition opens on Saturday 13 May at 2.00pm and runs until Sunday 25 June.

A special portfolio book will accompany the exhibition, available in the Shetland Museum and Mareel shops.

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