Her award-winning photography, Hastings fishermen and social realism

Local 23-year-old photographer and film graduate, Josie Barnes, won the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery (HMAG) competition in 2019 with her insightful photograph of Hastings fisherman, Darren. Josie tells HIP the story behind the photograph.

‘Darren’ By Josie Barnes

The photograph of Darren wasn’t planned. In 2016, I volunteered to take some video footage of the ‘Big Sleep Hastings’ [a night raising awareness of homelessness and money for the Seaview project]. The footage was to be compiled into a short film. It was freezing, six in the morning and time to get up. I had my camera on me, so I went to suss some things out on Hastings beach and I found Darren. At first he was a little funny about me photographing him and kept saying: “Why do you want to take a photo of me?”. 

I felt that there was a story here because I don’t know what it’s like to be a fisherman. He gets up at 4am every day and we talked a lot about his working life. Everyone knows of the fishermen in Hastings and they’re a big part of our community but they’re also quite private. I don’t know much about their lives. The typical brochure photos that you tend to see of fishermen and the industry are iconic and out at sea, so for me it was interesting to see this man working behind closed doors. He was just mending his net when I found him. 

This photo sat around for three years without any purpose. A lot of my work is like that – I don’t do anything with a picture until there’s a purpose or a right time. Maybe it’s a shame. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I saw Tom Hunter’s great pictures of taxi drivers in Hastings and I thought that actually, I have something like that and it’s the fisherman at work. I submitted it to HMAG and I ended up coming first. I couldn’t get on stage at first – my mum had to convince me. Tom Hunter was there and shook my hand, which was amazing. 

{{ There’s nothing worse than photographers trying to enhance or contrive a photo||

I got into photography when I was 12. I have dyslexia and I always struggled at school; they didn’t know how to deal with me as a creative thinker. When I was picking my GCSEs, some of my teachers said they didn’t think I could keep up, but I went to a photography workshop when I was 15 at the Stade, took photographs and submitted one of them to the Hastings Stade photography competition in 2013 (which is non-existent now). My work was recognised by Jeremy Birch and the other judges and that’s when I realised I could see myself doing this.

My work usually has a social realism angle. Most of the time I’m trying to be an observer. There’s nothing worse than photographers trying to enhance or contrive a photo. Often I’m taking photographs that have to be well thought-out because I’m capturing something sensitive and I need to be aware of other people’s feelings.

It’s important for me to be working for my community and the photograph has been given a purpose now. I didn’t really have any need for the big photograph and I felt the fishing community should have it so it’s up and framed in the Fisherman’s Protection Society somewhere.  I’ve won three photography competitions now and a lot of photographers are so ‘anti’ things like that, but I think it’s important to always keep relevant. It’s also given me a confidence boost as I hadn’t been recognised for my work before. When you’re still starting up, it’s a big deal. In the future I might go on the boat with the fishermen and do their story. 

Special thanks to all my teachers at Rye Studio School who acknowledged my talent and helped me excel in my field especially Nick Pilton and Andrew Gilpin.

You can find more information about Josie and her photographs at www.josiebarnesphotography.com

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