2015 - Ongoing
An enigmatic place – legendary and infamous. A volcanic blip in the vast blue of the Pacific, 2 miles long and one mile wide. About as far from anywhere as it is possible to be – access only by quarterly supply vessel. Once on Pitcairn, there would be no escape until the boat returned. Today just one child and 42 islanders remain on Pitcairn - its days are numbered.
Pitcairn the paradise – the Mutiny on the Bounty, the Anglo-Tahitian idyll, the Hollywood adaptations that followed – this would be the local currency.
To recap, HMS Bounty set sail from the UK the South Seas in 1787 on a naval mission to find breadfruit, but the crew, led by Fletcher Christian, mutinied outside of Tahiti. After failing to find a suitable settling place in Polynesia, the Bounty mutineers kidnapped 18 Tahitians and headed to sea. In 1970, they rediscovered Pitcairn island which had been marked incorrectly on naval charts. Once they had found their hiding place, they burnt the Bounty, ensuring that they could exist unnoticed.
225 years on, Pitcairn is still an enigmatic place, far off the beaten track. Amidst the dusty red earth and the swaying palms is an aristocracy disguised as a democracy. Status and livelihood depend on ancestral relationships to the original Bounty mutineers. Islanders walk with a swagger, shrouded by a sense of self-importance held fast by legend.
But there was another, darker, side to the island. Secrets that had ripped the community apart, convictions that had shocked the world. Wounds that would never heal. Spurred by testimony from one brave Pitcairn girl, a total of 8 living Pitcairn men had been convicted of sexual crimes against young girls in 2004, one of whom is the island’s current mayor, Shawn Christian. In 2016, another man, Mike Warren, was convicted of possessing indecent images of children. The men still apparently indignant, the abused girls now wives. Paradise Lost. The outside world, for the most part, engaging in a willing suspension of disbelief.
Hundreds of miles of open ocean, and an exotic tale obscure the truth, but on island, every problem is amplified, and there is no respite – honesty is eclipsed by need. Here women face their darkest moments daily, relying on their abusers. Every member of this minute community has a distinct role, all are necessary – to break ranks and speak out is to ensure the island’s downfall – or at least that is the prevailing view. Here, no experience is individual, there is no witness protection. In this most isolated of places, claustrophobia prevails.
A complex and tense environment where loneliness and secrecy thrive, where notions of right and wrong crumble in favour of survival. Relationships are fractured, locations bare scars. Every corner of this island is marred. Though the mutineers came for escape, Pitcairn provides no such comfort, its rocky shores and open ocean acting as a prison wall for all within.
The project changed as I was there, the absence of individuals willing to be photographed almost told a bigger story than those that agreed. Unwanted sexual advances and public showdowns peppered my stay. My project took place largely in secret - almost everyone was photographed in private, inside, away from judging eyes. It became a covert operation. With each person I had just one opportunity, and many took months of coercion. As a result the absences in the project perhaps tell a more potent story than those who are included.
Found photographs, objects, portraits and Pitcairn interiors intermingle to capture the spirit and struggle of this tiny island nation as it sits on the brink of implosion