During the 20th century, the docks at Milford Haven were once brimming with trawlers and the small west Wales town was home to a teeming forest of masts. Milford Haven’s direct access to the Atlantic and the facility of the docks allowed fishermen to come and go at any stage of the tide. ‘700 men worked on Welsh deep sea trawlers, yet today on the west coast of Pembrokeshire, Sean employs just 8’. All that flitters now is an accumulation of leisure yachts tinkling in the wind and burning memories. There is a deep sense of loss within the Welsh town and a fear the fishing community has withered.
My interest for photographing the Welsh-born fishermen aboard the Mercurious was instigated by the desire to experience for myself their way of life and work. Through Creaduriaid Y Mor (Creatures of the Sea) I pursued to discover and explore one of the remaining and toughest manual labour roles in our markets. I wanted to experience the gruelling conditions these fishermen return back to week after week, and discover just what draws them back to sea, each time putting their lives on the line. Knowing the owner of the two largest Welsh trawlers, Mercurious and Stephanie, operating off the Welsh port of Milford Haven, I was keen to take on this ambitious challenge.
Caught up in everyday life, we seem to ignore the significance of the volume of water covering our planet, and the life it provides us. As we continue to rely on it, we have very little idea as to what happens beyond the shore. Having the opportunity to work alongside the crew, not only allowed me to see first-hand how fishermen operate in all types of conditions, but it also gave me an insight into how skilled and complex the craftsmanship of trawler fishing can be.
It soon became apparent that these were no business men, these were creatures of the sea, thriving to keep the fishing community alive and make it a way of life. Allowing these fishermen to have a voice, the photographic imagery exposes the gruelling environments, demanding physicality’s and hardship these weathered men endure.
Alice Andrew is a 3rd year photography student at the University for the Creative Arts.