Ghost Gear – artwork inspired by fishing nets in a Cornish harbour

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Ghost Gear © Claire Ogden
Ghost Gear © Claire Ogden

One of my favourite places to look for images is a working harbour and Newlyn, in the far west of Cornwall, has been a rich source over the years. At the beginning it was often the reflections of the brightly coloured hulls of the fishing boats in the water that caught my eye. Now I also look more closely at the fishing boats themselves and all the paraphernalia on the quayside too.

In this instance there was a huge pile of fishing nets piled up on the quay. The pink and blue ropes looked like slithering exotic snakes and the fat yellow bobbin-like floats punctuated the great seething mass of threadlike net filaments. I wondered how anyone could ever make sense of the apparent disorder to stow the nets for the next fishing trip.

It also made me think of the huge problem there is with discarded and lost fishing nets in the world’s oceans. This debris is sometimes called Ghost Gear and it pollutes the seas, causing huge problems for marine life.

When I looked at the image on screen and adjusted the colours I found the net looked as though it was more animated, perhaps swirling in the currents. I liked the way the filaments of the net wove a web of fine lines amongst the bigger loops and hoops of the ropes. Losing the dense, dark shadows gave a vibrancy and life to the dancing shapes. To my mind, it was definitely alive in the water and no longer inert on the quay.

This image, titled “Ghost Gear”, was selected in December 2022 for the RWA Photo Open Exhibition, held in the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol from January to May 2023. It is printed in high definition on ultra thin aluminium with a gloss finish and float mounted in a white tulipwood frame 97cm wide.