Thursday, April 9, 2015

Portraits of Fishing Nets

A creature emerges from the patterns formed by a pile of colored fishing nets in Naoussa on the Island of Paros in Greece
Floats keep the nets aloft in the water
A cascade of gold filigree in Naoussa, on the Island of Paros
During my travels through the Greek Isles in the winter of 2013 and 14 I was struck by the beauty of the fishing nets I saw piled on the waterfronts of villages.
Nets on the waterfront in Panormos on the Island of Tinos
I began to experiment with photographing the nets in ways that captured the lines and patterns and blends of color that they conveyed.  The colors would change depending on the light and the time of day.

A painted stool for sitting while repairing nets

Nets piled on the waterfront in Panormos on the Island of Tinos
Shades of blue and turquoise in Tinos Town on the Island of Tinos
One of the things that struck me about the nets were the variety of colors.  When combined, the delicacy of the patterns they formed and the way that they intermixed, along with the contrasting forms of the net floats made for wonderful compositions.

Gold blends with orange in nets on the waterfront of Heraklion, Crete

Floats arranged like necklaces on the waterfront of Naoussa on the Island of Paros
I became obsessed with capturing images of these beautiful tangles of color and line, sometimes seeing figures and faces within them.

Turquoise and Yellow Nets in Tinos Town on the Island of Tinos in Greece
Pale blue traceries on the waterfront of Tinos Town 
The array of hues is diverse and wonderful, rich reds, maroon, cream, pale blues, turquoise, and most commonly shades of yellow.

Red and Maroon nets in Naoussa, Paros

Red floats spangle a pile of cream colored nets
Golden nets spread on a floral carpet on a boat in Heraklion, Crete

Nets piled along the harbor in Heraklion, on the Island of Crete
Mounds of nets in Heraklion, Crete
A young man mends a net in Parikia, Paros
I will continue to document nets to add to my collection in the future.  Two of the images here are from the waterfront in Genoa, Italy, which I visited this winter in 2015.  I'm hoping to submit a collection of photos to the Blue Sky Photography Gallery here in Portland, Oregon in the near future.

A rich blend of rust colored nets on the waterfront in Genoa, Italy
The bounty is nothing like it once was as overfishing has plundered the Adriatic Sea, the tradition of fishing carries on, more out of tradition than success these days.

Preparing nets in Vathy on the Island of Samos
I also like to photograph the catch displayed in fish markets.  Big fish are increasingly rare, and the selections arrayed for sale on crushed ice in the Mediterannean are a fraction of what they were a decade ago.  Smaller fish are much more common but even these are dwindling in supply.  Nets are not discriminating when it comes to rounding up the quarry of the sea.  Little is thrown back alive that isn't wanted, which the industry calls "Bycatch".  The small fishing boats I'm photographing have a fraction of the impact that large commercial trawlers do.  Large factory trawlers can rake the seas clean and process huge quantities of fish without having to return to port, making it possible to exploit areas that used to help sustain fish populations.  It is estimated that for every ton of prawns caught, 3 tons of unwanted fish are killed and discarded.  Think about that next time you order prawns.

Sword fish are increasingly rare in fish markets, Genoa, Italy
Sustainable fishing seems impossible in order to meet the demand, since seafood is such a traditional staple in the culture of the Mediterranean region.  The ever increasing market for sushi is causing the collapse of tuna populations, 5 out of 8 species currently being threatened with extinction.  Pollution makes eating large fish an increasing health threat, with noticable levels of mercury and heavy metals found concentrated in them, being higher on the food chain.

Small Octopii in the Quadrilatero of Bologna, Italy
The Food Aid Organization of the United Nations estimates that 25% of what is caught is discarded and that more than 70% of the world's fisheries are fully or over exploited.

Prawns and Needlefish in the Quadrilato Market in Bologna
Best to stick to sardines, although plastic waste is so prevalent in our oceans today that the smallest minnows in the most remote seas have been found to contain the residual of our discards.  We've done great harm to our oceans and the effects are being felt in our lifetime.

Anchovies in the fish market in Genoa, Italy
Even the nets become a curse to the sea long after their useful life is complete, tangling on the seafloor and shorelines.

A white net tangled on red lava rock on the Island of Santorini

A fisherman mends his nets on a boat in the harbor of Parikia on the Island of Paros
So we are seeing an end to a once great era of fisheries that has spanned the centuries of human history.  But there is still great beauty to be captured here.  The nets are beautiful when they aren't being used.

The ancient harbor in Heraklion, Crete, where the tradition of fishing has been practiced for perhaps 3,000 years
Thanks for reading, Jeffrey

A tableau in a fishing shack on the Island of Santorini
Nets in Parikia on the Island of Paros
Heraklion, Crete
Naoussa, Paros
Hora on the Island of Naxos

Pink and Cream nets in Tinos Town