About this artwork

During the early 1880s, James Cox photographed the fishermen and their families in the villages of West Haven and Auchmithie, to the east of Dundee. These photographs recognise the hardship of the fishing industry and often emphasise the dangerous and extremely exhausting nature of the work. Cox’s images of children show how they were expected to assume adult responsibilities from an early age. The girl in this photograph wears sturdy boots and a heavy basket, indicating that she too worked hard to make a living for the family. Children often helped collect bait, such a mussels and other shellfish, from the sea shore; a job that was cold, wet and tiring. The bait would later be attached to the hooks on the fishing lines and taken out to sea by the fishermen.

James Cox

James Cox

James Cox was the eldest child of a wealthy jute manufacturing family. He was an amateur painter and photographer. In 1880 he helped set up the Dundee and East of Scotland Photographic Association and was its first president. An exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy from 1884-6, Cox was a member of the consultative committee for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888. His best work is a series of photographs taken in the 1880s of the fishing villages of West Haven and Auchmithie. According to one contemporary, Cox owned the best equipped amateur studio he had ever seen.