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Chasing Fish in Cornwall

Rosie Brown is a rural photographer, who talks about growing up in the Cornish landscape and how she was inspired to create her photography series 'Chasing Fish'.

Being raised in Cornwall, I was fortunate enough to grow up with the beaches as my playground. Swimming, rock pooling, and bird watching was very much part of my childhood, as was fishing. Fishing is woven into Cornwall’s history and it is a trade that is still prevalent today across much of the county. Not just shore fishing, but commercial boat fishing too. Padstow, Newlyn, Mevagissey and Falmouth are just a few of the towns that still have active fishing ports.

Almost every weekend my stepfather would take me out on the rocks; in almost every weather condition. I’d clamber up and down the cliffs, rod in hand and, hopefully on the way back up, a bag of fish in the other.

I’d spend hours watching my float bobbing in the waves, occasionally distracted by diving gannets or curious seals. I remember seeing my first pod of dolphins whilst out fishing. Just as we were packing up our gear, they appeared – their sleek bodies allowing them to glide almost silently through the water. I was mesmerised by the sight. Fishing brought me closer to nature, yet I did not realise it.

My weekends spent fishing along the coast helped me build a relationship with nature built on respect and admiration. It was the chance to escape from real life and immerse myself in the natural world; becoming attuned to the environment around me. It felt like the world stopped still for a while. I was able to live in the moment.

During my final year at university, I found myself thinking about the relationships we share with nature as individuals and as a society. I wanted to create a piece of work that showed this, and I began to reminisce about my time spent fishing. I could still recall the sound of breaking waves and of line being reeled in; the smell and taste of salty air and the deep hues of blue sea below the cliffs edge. Soon I realised this had to be my final year project – which I later titled, ‘Chasing Fish’.

For four days in the winter I went back out fishing with my stepdad, immersing myself in the lifestyle. Instead this time it was with my camera and not with a fishing rod. Throughout the four days shooting, I often found myself putting my camera down and allowing myself to enjoy the moment by just observing what was going on around me – something I rarely ever do. I think, because of that, the photographs I did take became a bit more special.

Chasing Fish is a collection of images that explore the life of a fisherman and the relationship he shares with the sea. It is a story of everyday life for one person, but for many it is seen as a life of adventure. But for me it became more than this – Chasing Fish is as much my stepfathers’ story as it is mine. The photographs are a link back to childhood memories where I spent hours perched on a cliff ledge with nothing but the sea and sky as company; simply enjoying myself. For me, Chasing Fish became a reminder to enjoy the moment and to not always reach for the camera.


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