In the Wake: Tobias Beach-Wyld

Documenting Working Class Communities – a photographic study of those affected by the decline of the fishing industry in the North East of England.

Words & Photography: Tobias Beach-Wyld

My project ‘In the Wake’ is a photographic record of the impact of the demise of the fishing industry in the North East of the UK. This body of work began in 2017 as a response to my experiences of the local history through a documentary on the BBC which was focused on the “Headscarf hero’s” my own lack of knowledge about my home city inspired me to record the stories of its people for posterity.

The original concept for ‘In the Wake’ was to photograph the city of Hull and its ex trawler community. As the community is of an age where the youngest men are in their 60s made this project more urgent. Since the start of this project I have been documenting the remains and aftermath of Hull's fishing industry. Hull was at one point the largest deep-sea fishing port in the world with entire communities based around the docks. The vast majority of work in the City was, in some way, connected to the trawlers and their cargo. When this all came to an end it left Hull without an industry. What followed was mass unemployment and since the trawlers' crews were classed as casual work none of the men received redundancy, adding to their hardship.



Hull has shown a moderate recovery, but the remnants of the buildings and docks remain. With no funding or maintenance, these visible traces of the industry’s decline stand as a sad reminder to many of what has been lost. Having seen these derelict buildings all my life, and knowing about Hull’s fishing industry only in the abstract, I contacted the local community to record their stories and what happened to them after the fishing docks shut down. Having a family connection to the fishing industry I felt that this would be an important project to make for me with its links to my own identity as a person from Hull.


The themes of ‘In The Wake” focus on a recording of the demise of not only the fishing industry but also the loss of a working-class community as industry is diminished and the relocation of families broke down the long-standing subculture of the city.

As the body of work developed, I began including documentation of not only the people and the landscapes of the community, but also a recording of their private letters, photographs and ephemera linked to their lives in the fishing industry.

The importance of this type of imagery is that it not only allows for the observer of the project to see both the past and the present within one body of work but allows for the members of the community to be directly involved with the story that is being told.


The aim of the project is to show not only the demise of the industry but what is going to be the future for the community and how the shutdown has impacted and will continue to impact the way Hull as city develops and its future generations. This is achieved through the use of the recording of what is left so that the communities’ collective stories can be recorded for posterity, the work is a in some ways a memorial to a way of life and a community. This combination of found images and contemporary portraits and landscapes aim to educate and inform the generations to come on the history of a community that will no longer exist.

“Because of its capacity to visualise deprivation, need and social injustice, documentary photography has, since its invention, been instrumental in advocating reform.” – Franklin, S. p43 (Documentary Impulse)

Documentary photography has always recorded the poorest in our society, often with the intention of helping to improve the situation for the working poor. While my project is a record of the demise of a community based around, and now absent, trade, it was not in the hope that my work would be like documentary work before it in any way. Instead this work is intended to record the community, its way of life and its story before those who can tell it are gone.


I wanted to photograph my subjects with dignity and depict them realistically. I have always, and continue to aim to do this, by working in a collaborative nature with my subjects. With this approach, I aim to offer an alternative perspective on these misrepresented communities of the working-class.


Socials:

Tobias' Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tobiasbeachwyld/

Website: https://tobiasbeachwyld.portfoliobox.net/


Grafter:

Instagram: grafter_magazine

Twitter: @GrafterM

Facebook: Grafter Magazine


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