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 licence, no MOT’s, jobs were on a family basis or an interview was as simple as; ‘lets see how fast you can fillet Boy’. Health and safety was still in its victorian era and everyone knew everybody either by a nickname or some other namely wording. The ‘Kazbah’ pub opened at 6am 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 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 lunch time 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 sole 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 fibre based paper. I held a VIP and press evening to ‘spread the word’ (the internet and social media wasn’t invented) and finally opened to the public for a 4 day showing. 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 where trading nearby. All had left the docks forever or to new premises on sterile business parks or to a new heroic seafood village modelled 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 smoke house 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 sponsor 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 towns community, way of life and economic structure. Without them, I doubt I’d be writing this…
This is a unique collection of images which 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 document 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.
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 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 hand made.
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 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.
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.
Steve Thornton is a professional photographer whom over the last 30 plus years has worked worldwide on photographic projects and magazine assignments.
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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