Published September 22, 2022 : Review by Lauris Morgan-Griffiths

It’s been over a year since Generations: Hastings Fishing Families was published and John Cole was expecting active interest to subside. However, now it has a new exhibition and a rekindling of interest at Farleys Gallery. PhotoHastings’ Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was intrigued to know more.

When Farleys House & Gallery, the home to the surrealists Lee Miller and Roland Penrose and the meeting place for some the key artists of the twentieth century,  comes knocking at your door, you are not going to turn them away.  John Cole was thrilled to have another outing for his Hastings fishermen project that is so close to his heart. “I’ve been truly touched how the book has resonated with so many people. Understandably though, that enthusiasm has lessened over the past few months. But now, with a new exhibition of the Generations photos there is a rekindling of interest.”

John first came to Hastings from London in 1991, thinking he’d just spend a day or two taking a few photographs of the fishing community. But he fell in love with the town and continued to photograph the fishing community over the next two years, eventually moving to Hastings several years later.

“My initial attempts at conversation with the fishermen were generally met with a short nod or at best a mumble. But I persisted, and over the next two years I won their trust, and they eventually granted me the ultimate honour of inviting me to come out with them on their boats. Being out at sea for over twelve hours in the cold and wet redefined my concept of hard work and made me appreciate even more how hard it is being a commercial fisherman.”

The Hastings fishing community has been in existence for over a thousand years. It is a community that is on the edge of extinction. It would be easy to romanticise the hard lives of the fishermen and women, working in centuries-old methods of manual labour. The reality is that their work is very tough and often dangerous. Commercial fishing is proportionally the second most dangerous occupation in the UK — the first being the building industry. Fishermen told me countless stories of being out at sea: caught in gale force winds, their boats swamped and in danger of sinking, unsure whether they’d make it back ashore; and of crewmen thrown overboard by the fierce weather, drowning in the icy waters.

But at the same time, their work is always satisfying in ways that those of us ashore can perhaps find it hard to grasp. When John asked Paul Joy what he most loved about being a fisherman, he said, “The freedom. We’re like hunters, using our knowledge and levels of expertise.” Peter White added, that for him “It’s a way of life, it’s a passion, I can come and go as I please.”

The Generations exhibition will be sharing space with Roland Penrose’s Camouflage. And in the adjacent Lee Miller Gallery, there are Giles Duley and Lee Miller’s photographs, The Wreckage of War.

Image Gallery

TAGS : John Cole

Article by Lauris Morgan-Griffiths :  @laurismorgangriffiths
Original article reproduced by kind permission of Hastings Online Times
Generations: Hastings Fishing Families is at Farleys House & Gallery, Farley Farm, Muddles Green, Chiddingly, BN8 6HW (off the A22 between Uckfield and Hailsham).
Open Sundays and Thursdays from 10am to 4.30 pm, the exhibition is open until Sunday 23 October, 2022.
Pre-book your visit and look for the Visit Options section on their website to decide if you want to just visit the galleries and garden, or have a guided tour of the house as well.
Information : Farleys House & Gallery  |  @farleyshg  |  @johncole_generations
The book is available online and instore from Waterstones and other retailers.
All images ©

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