Steve Thornton Photographer

By Loop Images Magazine

Life as a Photographer – Steve Thornton

What is your photography story – how did you get to be where you are now?

It’s been a ‘yo yo’ ride. Feast or famine. Still is in fact! My grandad let me use his camera when I was about 10 to photograph our family picnics. I still remember taking them. Childhood has so many influences on what you see as a photographer in later years. It comes out in your style. It’s what you see quicker than other subjects, and are more in control when shooting them.

Having spent most of my life earning a living in the commercial world, my main focus now is personal projects. I have 2 running at the moment. One is called Fish Town, which I started 30 years ago. I have now revived this project and am making a new exhibition, book, and fine art print sales titled; FISH TOWN. The EU years. 1990 to 2020. The other is a project called 4SQ Miles. Both of these are published on this website. I have others in production too.

Which photographers influenced you and how?

There are too many good photographers out there to name anyone in particular.

How would you describe your personal style?

I think my home page says it all!

What motivates you to continue working aside from your economic needs?

I love making images, working on personal projects. It’s like a drug. If I’ve not produced anything ‘photographic’ every day, I feel the days have not been fulfilled. 

What is your strategy when approaching something you need to shoot?

Preparation and planning will make a good shoot production 90% of the time. The last 10% is what you give it on the day. And, that bit of luck will make great images.

How and where do you find inspiration?


How has having a digital workflow changed the way you shoot?

Digital cameras haven’t changed the way I shoot at all. Editing is a dream though! No wet darkroom can achieve the print perfection that a digital workflow like; Phocus, Capture One or Photoshop can produce. I use medium format nowadays so, actually shooting is the same as the old days. I shoot all my personal projects now on film; Hasselblad’s & Linhof’s. 6×6, 6×7, and 5×4. Film has a ‘feel’ to it that digital just does not have… For clients who require digital, I use Hasselblad digital cameras.

Briefly, what is your workflow?

Get up, walk the dog, breakfast, days work, walk the dog, dinner, bed, repeat…

What tech do you take with you when you travel?

Depends on the assignment. Little or loads. Lighting is the main issue. It’s ok if it’s a UK shoot, as it’ll all go in a truck. On foreign trips, I’ll have to hire what lighting I need in advance.

What is your favorite picture you’ve taken, and why? 

The last one…

What would be your dream photographic project?

A sponsored worldwide project. I have a couple in mind that have legs.

What advice would you give anyone entering the industry in 2020?

Forget it if you want to be rich & famous. Find out who you are, what you’re passionate about, and shoot it. Keep shooting it and more. Eventually, the reward will come!

Steve’s recommendations:

Lynsey Addario; It’s What I Do.
Avedon; Something Personal.
Avedon; What becomes a legend Most.
Bailey; Look again.
Don McCullin; Unreasonable behavior.
Harold Evans; My Paper Chase.
Margret White-Bourke; A Biography.
Sally Mann; Hold Still.
Helmut Newton; Autobiography.
Lee Miller; A Life.
Diane Arbus; Portrait of a Photographer.

Podcast – A Small voice by Ben Smith. Ben’s an excellent interviewer. Easy listening, conversations with photographers.

Escape from reality with a Hollywood movie. Rambo 4’s good! The last but one movie.

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FISH TOWN - The story so far... By Steve Thornton

The FISH TOWN project was only a year-long documentation of a fishing industry about to enter the new European Union (EU) regulations in 1990, which would, and did change the social and economic future of a historic fishing town called Grimsby on the East coast of England. The project ended up spanning 30 years!

The fish docks, where all the fish landing, auctions, filleting, and global distribution was in a relatively small area called ‘The Kazbah’. (Where did that name come from?). A village if you like, on private land owned by British Associated Ports (ABP). Drivers needed no license, no MoTs, jobs were on a family basis or an interview was as simple as; ‘let’s see how fast you can fillet Boy’. Health and safety rules were still in a victorian era and everyone knew everybody either by a nickname or some other namely wording. The ‘Kazbah’ pub opened at 6 am and the smoke-filled café’s bustled with all-day breakfasts, steaming tea earns, and banter that should have been scripted for ‘Live at The Apollo’. (A famous London comedy theatre).

I became aware of these new EU rules in 1988/9 and decided to document the life of Grimsby fishing town. Armed with ABP accreditation, 2 Nikon F3’s, 60 rolls of film kindly donated by Kodak, I ventured into another world. Shooting the very first frames everyone freaked out. Most hid behind fish boxes and others simply ran off. It took a whole week before word got out that I was not DHSS. Once accepted I became a member with nicknames like; smudge box, snapper, and twat with the lens.

For 3 or 4 days a week, every week for a year, I’d be there from 6ish to lunchtime when the last filleting was done.  Often getting a ‘heads up’ if there was a spectacular landing or something unusual happening the next day. I’d go back to the studio after an all-day breakfast in one of the café’s, and develop the films, print contact sheets and file them. Marking out initial images I liked. Ilford later donated about 40 rolls of film and a large batch of Ilford Gallerie printing paper.

When the day eventually came for everyone to have to operate under the new EU rules, the fish docks died. The heart and soul of a fishing community disappeared. Never to return.  In 1990 I put together an exhibition of the images in Grimsby Town Hall. Out of nearly 100 rolls of film, I selected and printed 120 exhibition prints onto Ilford Gallery fiber-based paper. I held a VIP and press evening to ‘spread the word’ (the internet and social media weren’t invented) and finally opened to the public for a 4-day show. By the 3rd day, it was sold out.

What happened next! Well, I went back to shooting commercial work for 30 years. Disappeared from the limelight! ‘Never shooting anything personal again’. How boring! However, mouths and mortgage to feed and all that…

ZOOM forward 30 years to 2020 and BREXIT.
What a perfect opportunity to revive FISH TOWN …

Fortunately, I did archive all the black and white negatives and created a filing system, so looking back through the contact sheets stirred my imagination to resume the project. I did a few visits to the ‘Kasbah’ and it was absolutely as it was 30 years ago. Only deserted and decaying. Everywhere was fenced off due to dangerous structural damage. Although a new and very efficient fish market was built. No businesses were trading nearby. All had left the docks forever or to new premises on sterile business parks or to a new heroic seafood village modeled on the old pontoons.

After a few phone calls to ‘get the bigger picture and armed again with my cameras. Nikon D5’s this time. I documented up to 10 seafood processing companies, photographing the workers and facilities. A far cry from the 1990 images. It’s now a seafood laboratory. Robotic, high-tech, digital production and distribution operation. I photographed the ‘Kasbah’s’ empty premises, closed café’s, ghostly streets and found a smokehouse still operating in the same traditional way. Apparently, smokehouses didn’t have to change at all!

Over 6 months, I captured the new way the FISH TOWN worked and am sponsored by Epson Printers, using the latest printers, scanners, pigment inks, and fine art papers. X-Rite sponsors me with the latest i3 Pro Plus calibration tools and I’m supported by Nikon Professional. These sponsors helped me produce this whole collection of FISH TOWN images, as an important cultural, social, and economic documentation, covering 30 years of change to a fishing town’s community, way of life, and economic structure. Without them, I doubt I’d be writing this…

This is a unique collection of images that are now displayed here for the first time. These unpublished images have been digitally remastered using today’s technology. The FISH TOWN collection of images documents the fortunes of Grimsby over 30 years. It records the working life of filleters and dock workers, the ice house at work, buying and selling, early morning auctions, and more. The capture of these unique moments in time is made even more impactful by the use of monochrome to convey industrial starkness and an emotive, raw honesty.

The inaugural exhibition displaying the complete collection is to be shown in Grimsby next May 2022 for the local populous and a new book is to be published to coincide with the exhibition. Hopefully, thereafter the exhibition will go on tour to other galleries and fishing ports in the UK.

Steve Thornton.

Fine Art Print; Signature & Studio Print Series Specifications;

Unless otherwise stated on the print page, these are the print specifications;

Signature Series Print size
16.5″x 11.5″ / 420mm x 297mm. Signature Series Image size – Approx. 12″ x 8″ / 310mm x 210mm. Varies per image format (± 1″ √ 3cm).
Studio Series Print Size
8.3″ x 11.7″ / 210mm x 297mm Studio Series Image Size – Approx. 9″ x 5.5″ / 230mm x 140mm. Varies per image format (± ½″ √ 2cm).

Printing Specifications for Signature & Studio Series Fine Art Prints;
Print Stock – Epson Signature series pigment print. Fine art traditional archival stock 325g √m2.
Print Stock Manufacturer – Epson Ltd
Permanence Rating – 315+ years.
Ink – Epson Archival x10 Ultra Chrome Pigment
Printer – Epson A2+ P900
Colour Calibration; monitors and printers – X-rite iPro 3  plus calibrator

Signature Series Fine-Art Print Finishing;
Hand-signed front & verso of print – Yes.
Embossed authenticity stamped on prints white area – Yes.
Hand-signed & embossed certificate of authenticity – Yes.
Mounted – No.
Framed – No.
Presentation- For more information & images please click here
Framing & mounting note: Signature fine art prints are not mounted or framed as framing and mounting styles are subjective to one’s own environment.

Studio Series Fine-Art Print Finishing;
Hand-signed front & verso of print – No.
Embossed authenticity on print – No.
Embossed certificate of authenticity – Yes.
Mounted – No.
Framed – No.
Presentation – For more information & images please click here
Framing & mounting note: Studio fine art prints are not mounted or framed as framing and mounting styles are subjective to one’s own environment.

Limited Edition Fine Art Prints;
Platinum Palladium prints. Limited editions of only 10 hand-made signed and stamped prints. Published late 2022.

Shipping, Presentation, Pricing, and Delivery;
Shipping costs – As stated during checkout.
Presentation & packaging – For more information & images please click here
Pricing – As listed in menu & checkout pages.
Delivery – By courier within 14 days of ordering.  Please note: All fine art print orders are handmade.


fish town. 1990 to 2020. the eu years
digitally REMastered images never published before !

This unique collection of images are now published here for the first time and will be exhibited at a special inaugural venue in Grimsby where the FISH TOWN image collection was produced. Before the whole collection goes on a UK gallery tour.

The FISH town image collection consists of;

The 1990 image collection are the very last photographs documenting Grimsby Fish Docks in all their glory. Prior to new European legislation coming into force

The 2020 image collection documents the new fish and processing industry as we leave the European Union.

Compared to 30 years ago. It’s like a mephitic shanty town to a seafood science lab.

Steve Thornton. November/2020.

2020 sponsored and supported by;
Epson; Large format printers, high resolution negative scanner, fine art paper stock, Ultrachrome archival pigment inks.
X-Rite Pantone; i1 Pro 3 Plus, monitor, print and scanner calibration equipment.
Nikon Professional, Specialist lenses.


This beautifully printed softbound large format book will include all the FISH TOWN collection of images.

Over 280 pages and printed on 170gsm soft gloss finished pages and 400gsm soft touch matt finish cover.

These books will be available as a limited edition print run of only 500 copies. Purchase books at the exhibition or on this website.

FISH TOWN Fine Art Prints. Now on sale

These stunning Giclée museum grade archival fine art prints are available in a choice of 2 size options.

The Signature series (A3+) and the  Studio series (A4). These are printed using the latest 10 colour Epson printers employing the latest 10 colour Ultra-Chrome archival colour ink sets. 

Both series are printed on Epson archival museum grade 325gsm stock with a soft gloss finish. The Signature Series are hand signed and embossed onto A3+ stock and the unsigned Studio series are printed onto the same stock but at a smaller A4 size. Both series are stamped on versa.

The Limited Edition Series are to be produced in 2022 as Platinum-Palladium archival prints. Only 10 prints of each are to be made.

More information is available on the prints page. Click on an image from the gallery for a full description and prices.

FISH TOWN Fine Art Prints are beautifully presented in black archival boxes with a certificate of authenticity...

Steve Thornton is a professional photographer whom over the last 30 plus years has worked worldwide on photographic projects and magazine assignments.

The most diverse 4 square miles in Great Britain

Nowhere in Great Britain does such a natural diversity occur within such a small area.
Nested on England’s panoramic east coast, Donna Nook proffers an outstanding natural ecology, English Nature protection, carbon reducing salt flats, a rare large breeding
grey seal colony alongside billion dollar fast jets flown by top gun pilots.
A unique world war 2 history and rich agricultural farmland.

Photographed by Steve Thornton

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