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Arts / Exhibition to shine light on role women have played in fishing industry

A NEW photo exhibition which pays homage to the important role women have played in the fishing industry will open this weekend in Lerwick.

Janet Williamson, filleter and packer, Scalloway. Photo: Craig Easton

The display, due to be held at the museum, is a collaboration between Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Arts.

It opens on Saturday (13 May) at 2pm and runs until Sunday 25 June. A special portfolio book will accompany the exhibition, available in the Shetland Museum and Mareel shops.

The exhibition, 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.

Easton is a multi award-winning photographer whose work is deeply rooted in the documentary tradition.

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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.

Mary Williamson, gutter, Whalsay. Photo: Craig Easton

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’.”

Amenity trust chief executive Hazel Sutherland said the organisation was “honoured” to be showing the exhibition.

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“The underlying theme is one of connection and the sense of people and place,” she said.

“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.”

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.”

Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Arts will also 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.

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