Description: The Haenyeo tradition can be traced back to 434 A.D., but it was around the 17th century that the diving was gradually taken over by women, shaping the semi-matriarchal structure of the island. Many families are supported by income brought in by this lucrative fishing industry; men run the household and women provide for the family.

The occupation is passed on early from generation to generation, and women are initiated into the culture at a young age. Centuries of accumulated knowledge and understanding of marine life are embedded in the craft – so much so that it is now part of UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Haenyeo are cause for inspiration in our ecologically uncertain times. The sustainable fishing practice revolves around a respect for the ocean and desire for harmonious co-existence with its rich sea life. Diving without oxygen tanks and hi-tech scuba equipment, the Haenyeo have developed their own methods for navigating the depths of the sea, which includes a breathing technique that allows them to hold their breath underwater for up to two minutes.

Sea life and dangerous free-diving is not for the faint of heart. Occupational hazards include facing brutal weather conditions to collect seaweed, abalone, conch and more – all year round.

Celebrating the prowess of these silver-haired divers, Schroeder photographs them in their thin rubber suits and old goggles, facing the knowledge that these women of the sea risk becoming a profession of the past.

The tradition is slowly fading, as fewer women choose this extremely hazardous profession, he says.

In a society obsessed with education, the future of this physically arduous activity would appear bleak, and yet, efforts from the government and local communities to preserve and promote this ecological and sustainable lifestyle have generated a renewed interest in the young people, who are disillusioned with urban life and eager to return to their roots .

Is it perhaps a renaissance?


Location: Area Verde Camollia 85
Via del Romitorio, 4

Period: 2019

Biography photographer:  

Alain Schroeder is a Belgian photojournalist born in 1955.

In 1989 he founded Reporters, a well-known photo agency in Belgium.

He has illustrated over thirty books dedicated to China, Iran, the Renaissance, Ancient Rome, the Gardens of Europe, Thailand, Tuscany, Crete, Vietnam, Budapest, Venice, the Abbeys of Europe, Natural Sites of Europe, etc.

Belgian book titles include, “Le Carnaval de Binche vu par 30 Photographes” and “Processions de Foi, Les Marches de l’Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse”. Publications include National Geographic, Geo, Paris Match and many others. He has won many international photo awards including a Nikon Japan award for the “Who Will Save the Rohingya” series, the TPOTY (Travel Photographer of the Year) award with two series “Living for Death” and “Kushti”, a World Press Photo 1st Prize in the Sport category with the series “Kid Jockeys”.

His photos have been showcased in numerous exhibitions worldwide.
He is represented in Paris by the photo agency HEMIS.

Marco Lodovichi