The fatigue, the strength but also the fragility are some of the elements of Bathus, one of the last projects of the Italian photographer Andrea Vagnoni about fishermen in Italy.
Based in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, Vagnoni has always been attached to social themes. With this project, he wants to catch the attention of the daily life of fishermen, highlighting the different aspects of this ancient job.
Between 2016 and 2017, he spent several times in the Adriatic Sea. The result is a series of raw but intimate images, showing fishermen’s experience and life, characterized also by conflicting feelings and moments, such as daily difficulties and gratifications.
Intriguing by his photographs, we interviewed Vagnoni to discover more about fishermen’s sea life and to understand better their experience.
Where does your interest in fishing communities and the sea come from?
It all began when I met a fisherman on the quay of Pescara’s harbor. He fired my imagination and I decided to find out more about the lives of these last hunters of the food chain. During my research, I learned of all the challenges that are threatening their way of life. That’s why I started a project that would bear witness to their difficult lives.
Can you tell us about the name of your project Bathus?
Bathus is an Ancient Greek word that means “deepness”: Eraclito used it for the first time in his texts. I discovered this word while I was studying some onboard instruments (like the bathometer) and it was a real keyword to explore a world that can’t be measured in nautical miles, but an exploration of the depths of our humanity, what lies beneath.
Which sea did you choose for your photographic project and why?
I choose the Adriatic because it is actually a semi-closed basin: this means that everything that happens around it has an immediate consequence on its state. Once upon a time, it was one of the most fertile seas in the world, but nowadays it’s getting poorer and poorer. I knew that I was going to find a difficult situation in which fishermen were fighting against troubles day by day. And that’s why I wanted to make my work there.
How long did you stay with the ﬁshermen? Could you tell us something about their daily work and life at sea?
The Bathus project started in May 2016 and it concluded in December 2017, with an enforced break in August 2016 due to the earthquake that affected the center of Italy. Generally speaking, a fisherman’s life is made of a very strict organization and, you know, you always have to be ready to face the unexpected when you live in symbiosis with nature. Life at sea is expensive and it’s less romantic than it appears. Adrenalin is the real kingmaker: if your catch is good and plentiful, everything is good; but if the catch is poor, the tension is high. The definitive role is the captain’s one: he’s only one who can keep a lid on things or motivate his crew as is needed.
What were they ﬁshing for and what techniques or equipment did they use? Which challenges and diﬃculties do they encounter in their daily work?
I wanted to show four kinds of fishing: gillnetting, purse seine, trawling, and longlining. I didn’t make any judgment on whether a technique is sustainable or not. Actually, I wanted to demonstrate how and why a shipowner comes to a decision just to survive. Gillnetting is fishing sole, redfish, cuttlefish, mullet, breed and turbot, while purse seine means fishing for mackerel, sardines, and anchovies and sometimes swordfish and tuna. Trawling, due to the fact it is not a selective method of fishing, means fishing for several species depending on the season and the sea depth. With longlining, you can hunt fishes like tuna and swordfishes.
What is your most powerful memory from this project?
It’s very difficult for me to choose just one memory. But I can tell you, for sure, the moments when I made up my mind that I needed to show fishermen’s lives in my work. I remember some fishermen crying on the quay before leaving: you can’t imagine how difficult is to leave when you’ve just had an argument with your son, or that your marriage is broken, or maybe that there’s someone ill and you won’t have any news about them in the coming days. A good captain and a close-knit crew can make the difference. Anywhere, anyhow and anytime. Thank you for deciding to feature Bathus on Fine Dining Lovers!
All the images ©Andrea Vagnoni