Art Beat takes a closer look at DATMA’s ‘Harvesters of the Deep’ exhibit – The Herald News

Don Wilkinson, Correspondent
The Herald News

Jern Kyunghee, Dodu Jeju © Hyung Sun Kim

The work of three photographers- Hyung S. Kim, Phil Mello and Craig Easton- are on display in New Bedford, along the harbor front walkway on Macarthur Boulevard at the State Pier, and alongside the YMCA downtown, on Union Street between Water Street and North Second Street.

As part of DATMA’s ( a.k.a. the Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute) summer art exhibition series “Water 2021,” “Harvesters of the Deep: Portraits of Fisherwomen from South Korea, America and the United Kingdom” is a celebration of the international community of women who are integral to the labor force and management of the fishing industry across the globe.

The images are somewhat impervious to the elements (the possibility of hurricane notwithstanding) as they are printed directly on to heavy-duty PVC sheets and mounted to the ground.

Kim’s photographs are thrilling depictions of the Haenyeo, legendary female divers in the Korean province of Jeju. Most of them began foraging the sea when they were around the age of fifteen, bringing clams, oysters, urchin, abalone, octopus and seaweed up from the depth without the benefit of scuba tanks. Many continue the work into their sixties and seventies.

Trained in swimming and underwater harvesting, the Haenyeo need to be physically conditioned with regard to high lung capacity, and the ability to withstand water pressure and frigid temperatures. Their matriarchal ethics and sustainable fishing practices are widely recognized as a prime example of eco-feminism.

As Sung Yongja, one of the divers noted: “The sea is more valuable than my life. I will be a Haenyeo again when I am reborn.”

Mello has documented the local women who work on the waterfront, the unsung fish cutters, purveyors, welders, lumpers, inspectors, auctioneers,and more, who continue to help make New Bedford the premiere fishing port in the United States, with an annual monetary value of $451 million, with sea scallops making up 89% of that haul.

Maria of Lowestoft, © Craig Easton

Easton’s “Fisherwomen” series is a presentation of photographs of the “Herring Lassies,” a unique band of female-only migratory workers in the United Kingdom, who travel from port to port on land, mirroring the herring fishermen out on the boats.

The tradition of “going to the herring” was passed from mother to daughter for generations, working on the quay. In modern times, they are mostly unseen behind closed doors, laboring in fish cutting facilities, processing plants and smokehouses all around the coastal UK.

There is one photograph by Easton of a woman noted only as “Louise of Aberdeen” in Scotland. She is bent over in hearty laughter, which can only be understood as a pure, unmitigated fit of joy. I imagine that however hard these women work, be it in Asia, Europe or New Bedford, they too contain that joy. And like Louise, they sometimes let it fly.

“Harvesters of the Deep: Portraits of Fisherwomen from South Korea, America, and the United Kingdom” is on display aside the YMCA and on the State Pier until Oct. 17. Additional photographs can be viewed by going to

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