Location: London, United Kingdom
Pitcairn Island – legendary and infamous. A volcanic blip in the vast blue of the Pacific: two miles by one; Britain’s last Pacific Overseas Territory. Today one child, 'the loneliest child in the world' and 42 islanders remain. I spent 3 months on Pitcairn, followed by a 21 day sea voyage aboard the island's quarterly supply vessel to New Zealand, the only way on or off.
Pitcairn is well known as the archetypal paradise – made famous as Mutiny on the Bounty island, an Anglo-Tahitian idyll, with multiple Hollywood adaptations reinforcing the fiction. But more recently, another, darker, side to the island came into view. Secrets that had ripped the community apart. Between 2004 and 2007, 8 Pitcairn men were convicted of sexual crimes against young girls in 2004 and 2007, one of whom is the island’s current mayor, Shawn Christian (pictured), patrilineal descendant of Fletcher Christian, leader of the mutineers, and another his brother, Randy Christian (pictured). Paradise Lost.
On Pitcairn, every problem is amplified, and there is no respite – honesty is eclipsed by need, women rely on their abusers. Few women were willing to take their testimony through to trial, and the trials were deemed to be the tip of the iceberg. In this most isolated of places, claustrophobia prevails. A complex and tense environment where loneliness and secrecy thrive. Was it possible to move on, and, more importantly, had it?
Unwanted sexual advances and public showdowns peppered my stay. I was nicknamed "the only woman of breeding age" and became the target of male affections (image 7). Almost everyone was photographed in private, inside – away from judging eyes. With each subject I had just one opportunity - many taking months of coercion. As a result, those absent in the project perhaps tell a more potent story than those included.
This is the story of what can happen in plain sight, when we turn the other cheek. It is what happens to humanity when no-one is watching.