Fishermen’s photos inspire new exhibition

The latest exhibition at Shetland Museum’s Da Gadderie, At Sea and Ashore, is a showcase of four Shetland fishermen’s own photographs.

The idea for the exhibition came as a result of their photos being posted on social media sites – giving viewers a window into their world, both while they were off fishing, but also during the periods ashore.

The digital images got a huge reaction from the public, and illustrate not only the technical abilities of the self-taught amateur photographers but demonstrate their artistic ability too.


So who are they?

Johnny Simpson from Whalsay left school aged 16 in 1974. He got a job on the Whalsay boat Zephyr as cook and has been with her in all her incarnations ever since.

He got his first camera, a 35mm Ricoh KR10 back in the late seventies.

Now using a Nikon D4, Johnny says he was slow to embrace the change but soon saw the advantages to digital. His images of orcas taken while fishing and mirrie dancers while ashore are among his most popular.

Kevin Ritch, who has lived in both Unst and Burra, got the chance of a job on a Yell boat when he was 15.

His mother sent him off with a set of oilskins and he enjoyed the work so much it was three months before he went home.

He spent 10 years with the Madalia and then sat his ticket and got a job on the Alison Kay for 10 years.

He took a share when the new boat came along and has sailed as her second skipper for the last 15 years.

Kevin got his first camera when he was 16 and moved on to digital in 2001. His quirky, artistic images of birds and seascapes when he’s fishing and his eye for an unusual shot ashore are well appreciated on Facebook.

Ian Reid from Whalsay left school in 1990, gaining a job onboard the Korona through the government’s Youth Training Scheme.

He was on her crew for two years, followed by several years with different boats during some difficult years for the industry.

Ian says he was lucky, following the decommissioning of the Zenith in 2003, to get a job with the Resilient crew, and is still with them today.

He has always been interested in photography and after owning various cameras, bought his first digital SLR in 2005.

His favourite subjects when fishing are solans diving and his landscapes are hugely popular. He says without social media very few folk would get to see his and other people’s photos of Shetland.

The fourth set of photographs are a little bit different. They were taken by the late Leslie Williamson of Bixter, shareholder on-board the Evening Star, and were posted by his widow Marlene.

Without the benefit of social media and Facebook people would probably never have been able to share what feels like a portal back in time to the 1960s when the boat and her crew were fishing pioneers.

Looking back half a century later, much in the industry has changed and advanced, but many will recognise and appreciate the working life of the Shetland fishermen then. Thank goodness Leslie took his camera for that shift and that Marlene had the generosity to share them.

At Sea and Ashore opens to the public in Da Gadderie at 2pm on Saturday 14th January and runs until 26th February.