I can’t remember when exactly I got involved in working on the most recent book for the Fishermen’s Mission, it was just one of those projects that crept in from the sidelines and before I knew it I was swallowed whole.
Originally started in the spring of 2019 with interviews of people in the local community taking place, its momentum was cut short by the start of the pandemic in early 2020. It was tentatively picked up again as the world began to open up and myself and fellow photographer Matt Facey began work in earnest on shooting the portraits in November 2021.
The book focuses on the fishing community of Mevagissey on the south coast of Cornwall. It is the second largest fishing port in Cornwall after Newlyn. Salty Cove is the third book in a series that has been published by the Fishermen’s Mission, with Salt of the Earth (Newlyn) and Sea Salt and Solitude (Padstow, Port Isaac, and Newquay) coming before it. To work on a project like this is all-consuming, it’s also an enormous privilege and the opportunity to document a community like Mevagissey through stories and photographs is a rare one indeed.
As well as shooting the photos, the Fishermen’s Mission needed someone to design the book layouts and getting it print-ready. Having become quite invested in the book over the winter months, I offered to do this and I think this is where the project really took over my life!
Emma and I wanted to develop a style for the book so that it was different from the previous two, while at the same time looking like they belonged together on a bookshelf. The header font was chosen for its resemblance to the lettering of fishing boat registration numbers. In selecting photos for the book, we wanted to include some extra shots of Mevagissey as well as the portraits to give the book a sense of place. Choosing the running order of how the individual stories in the book was probably the hardest task. I spent several days reading through every single interview for the book, making a huge list of common threads that ran through the stories, connecting up fishermen that had either worked together and had shared anecdotes, or simply groups of family connections. I then took these stories and started adding them page by page into the enormous InDesign document that I had set up. The book began to take shape slowly, taking on its feel and character with every new addition. I think I ate, slept, and dreamt the book at this stage, completely absorbing myself in it.
All portraits for the book are in black and white, they were shot predominantly through the winter and this is apparent in the feel of the photos. There were at times some challenging weather conditions, and a lack of light with the dark evenings, but this lends an atmosphere all its own. Catching portraits of the fishermen on a winter's night just before they head off for a multi-day trip out to sea. It’s as true-to-life representation as myself and Matt could manage without actually heading out to sea ourselves!
Meva has an incredible community spirit, it’s a place that pulls together through the bad times and very much knows how to celebrate in the good times. Most of all for me, it’s home and I feel a strong sense of belonging here which is why I became so emotionally invested in it and wanted to see it through to the very end, sending it off to print at Deltor in Saltash.
I truly loved working on this project for the Fishermen’s Mission. Yes, it took over my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined, but to see it through to the very end and to be able to hold a finished, heavyweight coffee table book in my hands was quite an amazing feeling. It was released on the 10th of June with a spirited launch party in Mevagissey Social Club and is raising some important funds for the mission. To date, Hurley Books in Mevagissey has sold £6500 worth of copies, all of which are going to the Fishermen’s Mission which is pretty incredible. This is not taking into account the £9,000 or so raised via Crowdfunder and sales from other outlets.
Fun fact: the last portrait was shot on the morning that it went to print. Right down to the wire!
You can buy the book from Hurley Books, Waterstones in Truro, Heligan, and the Eden Project. Or directly from The Fishermen's Mission