ArtHouse Jersey gave photographer Martin Toft a research grant to develop his project The Seaflower Venture in Canada in 2017.
'The Seaflower Venture - Jersey’s cod-trade in the Gaspé' is a major transatlantic research and photographic project exploring Jersey’s maritime and mercantile links to Quebec and Newfoundland in Canada during the very profitable North-Atlantic fisheries in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Martin Toft is a photographer, photo book artist and educator who work on commissions and long-term independent and collaborative projects. He was born in Aarhus, Denmark in 1970. Self-taught in photography he completed his MA (by Project) in Fine Art at University of Portsmouth in 2000. He moved to Jersey, Channel Islands in 2004 to take up his current post of Teacher of Photography at Hautlieu School. His practice combines documentary and fine art approach to explore social, anthropological and cultural themes, often immersing himself in communities for long periods of time. His work is underpinned by archival, historical and conceptual discourse using lens-based media across photography, video, sound and text.
The project is centred around Charles Robin who founded the most successful Jersey firm on the Bay of Chaleurs on the Gaspé Coast and the extraordinary photographic archive and unpublished fictional biography of Robin’s life based on his own diaries written by Phyllis Ross (Lady McKie) in the 1950s. Using the manuscript, The Seaflower Venture of some 275,000 words as a narrative structure and probing this important history of Jersey’s maritime identity through a photographic discourse, my interest is in the creative potential for image-making between the fictional and non-fictional story about Robin's trading posts in the new British colonies in North America, which he established in 1766 soon after the French defeat in the Seven Years War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763.)