The end of the line

It’s always interesting to have a speaker at the photo club who completely wrong foots you when you hear his talk. John Tickner’s subject for the evening, we had been told, was some pictures about commercial fishing. Initially this might have appeared to be a somewhat limited topic with a number of shots of fishermen, boats and plenty of fish. But what we got was far better than that.

John presented a wide range of images all taken on medium format slides which charted his project capturing the lives and traditions of salmon fishers around the coast of Britain.
In so doing we were treated to a study of what a hard life this is and how these fishermen are simply keeping alive their traditions at great physical cost and with often very little financial gain.
There were shots of fishermen in their boats set against brilliant sunrises but equally John showed us some very different forms of fishing. These included men in coracles in South Wales, net fishing on the River Severn and elver fishing on the River Parrett. But most eye-catching were his slides of the mud-horse men in Bridgwater Bay pushing wooden sledges across the mudflats and gathering shrimps.

John’s pictures clearly showed the effort required to do this and, it must be said, the risks John also took to get the images. And of course as he was using traditional film and not a digital camera we could all well believe him when he said that it was quite difficult to change the film when he was up to his waist in water!

This was clearly a photographic project that was as labour intensive as the subject matter. Getting up early to join the fishermen was necessary to get these images and it certainly paid off as the pictures capture a way of life that is fast disappearing.