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Net Makers Under The East Cliff

Net Makers Under The East Cliff

Photographer: Frith, Francis (1822-1898)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1864

Shelfmark: Cup.410.g.108

Item number: 4

Length: 11

Width: 16.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

“Nearly everything in the ‘fish town’ is pitched within and without with pitch. The very air is pitchy. Instead of sea-weed, the beach is strewed with nets fresh tarred. I saw half-a-dozen ‘tars’ sitting upon pitch barrels and crab-cradles, knotting tarred rope into nets. Pointing my camera at the features of the place – the net makers, the cliff, and some of the black boxes – I besought rigidity for a moment. Not only was it cheerfully granted, but when the picture was taken...the captain despatched to me a sturdy Ganymede, to whose tarry fingers stuck a huge jug of beer, and, ‘Would I drink?’ O most noble prince of net-makers and fishermen! Never before was I so near regretting that I do not drink that vile compound, which is to thee and to thy simple-minded mates a sort of elixir of life.”

Descriptive letterpress by Francis Frith from his book 'The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings'

This view by Francis Frith (1822-1898) of fishermen on the beach at Hastings, East Sussex, is one of sixteen photographs illustrating his book ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’, published in 1864. Frith was a pioneer in the field of travel photography, beginning his career with three trips to Egypt and the Holy Land between 1856 and 1860. In 1859 he founded his own publishing firm in Reigate, Surrey, which issued albums and postcards of views throughout Britain. The firm was very successful and became the largest of its kind in the 19th century, continuing to be run as a family business until 1971. In Frith’s first album, ‘Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described’, he also wrote the text that accompanied his photographs and this form of dual authorship is continued in ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’. Its text is notable for the gently satirical attitude which he adopts towards the 19th-century English seaside resort.

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