Izzy Schreiber turns his lens to the unexpected details and fashions of Cornish fishermen

In his new series From The Sea, the photographer shows us a more human side of your typical British fisherman.

19 April 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Izzy Schreiber joined the US Marine Corps straight out of school and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Here, surprisingly, he started to dabble in photography, taking on small commissions in his free time. After leaving the Marine Corps, he moved to Seoul to finish his BA in Media and Design. “I quickly found the fashion industry in Seoul, which felt new and exciting to me as a photographer,” he says. “I began to shoot more commercial work and fashion, along with writing articles and shooting runways for various Korean and international magazines. I really started to love the diversity and complexity of fashion, but was frustrated by the fast-paced digital nature of it.” Three years later, he landed on an MA in Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion as the antidote and during this time, he slowed things down and started to take the time to explore his interest in fashion photography.

The outcome of this is a series titled From The Sea, a photographic project exploring the identity of Cornish fishermen. Inspired by his own curiosities around the ocean and fishing, Izzy started studying the clothing of these subjects – more specifically the everyday and utilitarian aspects of their fashion. “I was immediately drawn to the deep-rooted traditions of fishing in Cornwall,” he says, “and felt it was the best place to explore these ideas. I found that fishermen in traditional media were represented as being hardworking, ocean-loving labourers who love their jobs. Their job being their defining principle, while the details and nuances of their identity were often overlooked.”

There are certainly many British stereotypes associated with the fishermen of Cornwall, and through his series, Izzy flips these presumptions on their head, by showing the smaller details and the connection that these fisherman have to their clothes. In doing so, Izzy spent an abundance of time getting to know his subjects. And often, he’d work alongside them, fully immersing himself in the life of a fisherman. “During this, I was able to observe how they interacted with each other and their ships, while also experiencing the labour aspects of the job first-hand,” he says.

This enabled Izzy to experience the day-to-day of a fisherman and thus accurately (and honestly) represent them in his work. “Through these experiences, they often opened up to me about their personal lives and backgrounds,” he adds. “They pointed out that they were born minutes away from the harbour, and could see their ship from their homes. It became clear they were inseparable from the ocean and fishing, and how it was more than just a pay check.”


Izzy Schreiber: From The Sea (Copyright © Izzy Schreiber, 2021)

“They cared abut the fragile ecosystem in which they worked and were always looking for ways to fish sustainably,” says Izzy, who felt a natural obligation to show this side of them, a side which often goes overlooked in mainstream media. To do this, Izzy turned his lens towards the more human-centric moments found between his subjects, focusing on the spaces and faces of those who have endured a long day at work, rather than showing them simply lifting fish and lobster pots. “By focusing my work in this way, I was able to show a different side of the fisherman not traditionally shown by regular media.”

One of Izzy’s favourite images from the project is of a subject named Rey, who is on the Julie of Ladram, a trawler that was built in 1983 and measures over 38 metres in length. Izzy took the shot just as the crew were fitting the boat, resulting in a colourful and vibrant depiction of the set-up. What Izzy loves most about the image is that Rey is wearing another man’s boots. “I feel these details not only tell a story about the relationship the fishermen have with one another, but play with the ideas of identity,” says the photographer. “It is a detail most would miss, but possibly the most important.”

There are many more pictures like this, where fishermen go about their daily routines – lifting crab traps, working with their hands – all the while donning a golden watch or polo cap. It’s an unexpected and more honest presentation of those who spend their working lives at sea. “I wish people who view From The Sea are left with an understanding of how fishing is not merely a working class job that they are forced to do,” concludes Izzy, “but a deeply loved and complicated profession. I hope the audience that views these portraits sees how deeply connected they are to the ocean and the spaces of their ships, while still being a relatable yet unique community.”

GalleryIzzy Schreiber: From The Sea (Copyright © Izzy Schreiber, 2021)

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Izzy Schreiber: From The Sea (Copyright © Izzy Schreiber, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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