The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Fishing Faces

From shooting along the Nith estuary at high speed on a Rigid Inflatable Lifeboat, to discovering how periwinkles are sorted into different sizes, to trying to figure out how to photograph a Coastguard training session in the dark and in the fog, the Fishing Faces project was a real (sometimes literal) voyage of discovery.

Commissioned and managed by the Solway Firth Partnership, Fishing Faces was a year-long project. But this wasn't going to be about creating a set of photos of craggy old fishermen in black and white, instead the purpose was to draw attention to those who support and rely on a modern fishing industry in South West Scotland.

From harbour master to chef, Fisherman's Mission volunteer to fishing gear fabricator, my task was to create a series of portraits of some of the faces that much of the general public wouldn't even think about, but are all part of supporting the fishing industry.

Launched at last month's Stranraer Oyster Festival, free copies of Fishing Faces can be picked up at a variety of outlets across SW Scotland, including local libraries, seafood restaurants, hotels and tourist information centres.

Here are a few of my favourite images from the year:

Nith Inshore Rescue
Without a doubt, the biggest highlight of the whole project for me was when I went out on the Rigid Inflatable Lifeboat with Nith Inshore Rescue. To say it was exhilarating travelling at a rate of knots across the water, would be an understatement.

I put a wide-angle lens onto the camera which had the advantage of giving a real sense of the place, as well as feeling embedded in the boat with the crew.

I was quite excited at the prospect of photographing the Coastguard doing a training session descending a cliff face on ropes. However, while it had dawned on me that it was going to be in the dark, I wasn't prepared for the thick fog. I almost gave up before I started, thinking there was no way I was going to get a decent shot, but I was there, so I figured I may as well at least try.

As I clicked away, I was convinced I was going to have to wait until the Spring and lighter evenings, as I couldn't see anything very promising in the back of the camera. However, once I'd transferred the images to the computer and was able to explore and edit them on a big screen, I was delighted to find some really quite atmospheric pictures.

Steve Stringer runs a range of fishing and sight-seeing trips and we planned to go out on the boat with him to get a few shots. Unfortunately it was not the calmest of days and once we left the harbour it was more of a fairground ride than a gentle boat trip. Note in this shot, the boat is horizontal, so look at the angle of the horizon, and the way Steve is standing

Now I've always had a pretty good set of sea legs and sea-sickness is something that happens to other people, so it came as a bit of a shock to me that as soon as I started taking photos, I began to feel unwell. It turned out that viewing the constantly moving vista though the camera completely confused my inner ear, and my brain stopped knowing which way was up.

I had to stop pretty quickly.

I didn't actually throw up, but I came very close, and the queasy feeling stayed with me for a few hours, even after we'd returned to dry land.

Steve also volunteers on the lifeboats, so we decided a shot of him in his gear, with the lifeboat and Portpatrick behind him was a better option.

Paul exports periwinkles. Gatherers sell them to him and he grades them into medium, large and jumbo sizes by means of a large, rotating, cylinder-shaped contraption that is slightly sloped on the inside and has different sized gaps in it for the periwinkles to fall through into the appropriately labelled container. There's nothing high-tech or romantic about it, so when I arrived and just saw the sorter in a breeze-block shed, I felt a bit lacking in inspiration.

There was no alternative – I was going to need to get a bit arty, so I set the camera up at one end on a slow shutter speed to get a sense of depth, action and movement.

The Fabricator
R&A Fabricators specialise in the supply and repair of scallop gear. But pretty much any photographer will leap at the chance of photographing someone welding...

SFP group shot
A group shot of the Solway Firth Partnership team was always going to be needed, but everyone sitting in the office at their computers would have been pretty boring, so a trip down to the beach was in order. Getting everyone together meant setting up the date well in advance so there was no guarantee with the weather and I was fully expecting it either to be chucking down with rain, or at least pretty overcast with a dull sky and light. But as it turned out we were blessed with a beautifully sunny day with not a cloud in sight.

With the tide right out, and a nice bit of cliff edge for them to scramble up on, we created a fun image of them all looking off across the Solway Firth, trying to keep a straight face...


daisyfae said...

i had never experienced sea sickness until a dive trip in Mexico had me hugging a toilet for a night. It is sheer misery! From then on, i have been a fan of anti-seasickness medication. It might make me a little sleepy, but it is far better than seasick!

Gorgeous series of photos - telling an important story. An economy is made up of many layers! Nicely captured!

Kim Ayres said...

Daisyfae - thanks for your kind words about the photos :)
I get travel sick in the back of cars, but that's usually about it. Fine if I'm in the front, and boats and never bothered me, which is why I was so surprised when I started taking photos and it just totally enveloped me!

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