Fiji has a problem… it’s filthy.

Recently, a facebook photo group I’m a member of had a “7 in 7” challenge – take 7 images in 7 days. I never intended for all the images to be about rubbish, but because it was a subject that I could find anywhere, it just became that.

Below are the images that I took over the course of the week.  Click on the images to see the descriptions that I posted along with them.

Litter is a massive problem in Fiji, and it seems like nothing is being done to fix it.  There is a anti-litter law that is over a decade old, but no one enforces it.  In any case, the fine isn’t much of a deterrent.

Finding a solution would need a huge push in educating the masses, as well as possibly changing the fine for individuals to actual community hours picking up rubbish.

On the government level, Fiji is minting it with a 6% “Environmental” tax – soon to be 10% – that is charged by the Hotel/Tourism industry and the larger Restaurant chains around the country.  Yet it seems, none of that money is being put into actually doing something about caring for the environment.  It’s a running joke, but sadly a very unfunny one.

Next month, a 10c surcharge per plastic bag is being introduced in an attempt to reduce the use of plastic bags… but just this as a measure is woefully inadequate.

Garbage collection services are really only in urban areas, so for much of the country, there is no responsible option for how/where to dispose of rubbish.

A plastic bottle return programme would go a huge way in cleaning up the country, but nothing like it seems to be on the horizon.

Something needs to be done Fiji. The scary thing is, as bad as it all looks now, it’s definitely going to get a whole lot worse before we can even hope for it to get better 🙁

Rise Beyond the Reef

Recently, I spent a few days with Janet Lotawa from Rise Beyond the Reef, a non-profit that aims to alleviate poverty in remote communities through a variety of programs.

The projects we covered in the handful of days we travelled, were predominately for empowering women by teaching them to produce marketable goods using traditional skills.

Our projects incorporate mechanisms for sustainable self-sufficiency.
We are developing opportunities for businesses, tourists and volunteers to connect appropriately and sustainably with remote communities.

Their latest project “Shelter from the Storm” focuses on communities that were extremely affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston.  Verevere in Ra was one such village we visited. Virtually every structure in the village had been flattened by the cyclone, and four months later, this small community was still rebuilding with the help of volunteers.  Portraits from here included a woman who had flashbacks of the storm every time she hung out her washing, as that’s what she was doing when the cyclone began.  Sadly, she and many like her will have to try and work out their PTSD without proper counselling, as Fiji just doesn’t have the resources to cope with something of this magnitude.

Nestled in the mountains of Sabeto is Navilawa village
Nestled in the mountains of Koroyanitu National Heritage Park is Navilawa village
Instructing the women of Navilawa
Instructing the women of Navilawa
Handicraft at Navilawa
Handicraft at Navilawa
Instructing the women in a recently rebuilt house at Tukuraki, Ba
Instructing the women in a recently rebuilt house at Tukuraki, Ba
This large rock overhang was home to 3 families for a number of weeks at Tukuraki, Ba
This large rock overhang was home to 3 families for a number of weeks at Tukuraki, Ba
This large rock overhang was home to 3 families for a number of weeks at Tukuraki, Ba
This large rock overhang was home to 3 families for a number of weeks at Tukuraki, Ba
Painted river rocks are helping earn much needed income in the "Shelter from the Storm" initiative
Painted river rocks are helping earn much needed income in the “Shelter from the Storm” initiative
Instructing the women in a recently rebuilt house at Tukuraki, Ba
Instructing the women in a recently rebuilt house at Tukuraki, Ba
Rara village, Ba
Rara village, Ba
Rara Village
Rara Village
The women of Rara village weaving mats for supply to markets organised by Rise Beyond the Reef
The women of Rara village weaving mats for supply to markets organised by Rise Beyond the Reef
Weaving a mat in Rara village, Ba
Weaving a mat in Rara village, Ba

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Voivoi
Voivoi
Stone tools found in Ra
Stone tools found in Ra
TC Winston survivor, Verevere, Ra
Portrait of a TC Winston survivor, Verevere, Ra
TC Winston survivor, Verevere, Ra
Portrait of a TC Winston survivor, Verevere, Ra
TC Winston survivor, Verevere, Ra
Portrait of a TC Winston survivor, Verevere, Ra
Getting their food growing is a major priority, Saioko Village
Getting their food growing is a major priority, Saioko Village
Temporary shelter and a garden on the foundations of a former house in Saioko village, Ra
Temporary shelter and a garden on the foundations of a former house in Saioko village, Ra
Training in Saioko, Ra
Training in Saioko, Ra
Instructing the women of Saioko, Ra
Instructing the women of Saioko, Ra
Experimenting with the electric drill, Saioko village.
Experimenting with the electric drill, Saioko village.

Tuvalu Time

This month I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days in Tuvalu, on the island of Fogafale which is one of the 30 islands that makes the coral atoll that is Funafuti.  I was there to capture images of a dredging and seawall project being undertaken by Hall Contracting on behalf of the Tuvaluan Government.

Tuvalu is recognised as being the first country that will disappear due to climate change – an increase in sea level of just 20-40cm would make Tuvalu uninhabitable.

Here are some of the images I shot for Hall.

The stars fade as dawn breaks
The stars fade as dawn breaks
Pre-start lineup
Pre-start lineup
Fishing at Dawn
Fishing at Dawn

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Kids play on the dredge pipeline
Kids play on the dredge pipeline
Happy faces
Happy faces

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Playing on a portion of beach that was just created that day
Playing on a portion of beach that was just created that day
Rugby on the beach is now a possibility for the children of Fogafale
Rugby on the beach is now a possibility for the children of Fogafale
Hoping to catch dinner
Hoping to catch dinner
Kids taking shelter from the sun in a J-bin
Kids taking shelter from the sun in a J-bin

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Rain is the island's only source of fresh water
Rain is the island’s only source of fresh water

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#StrongerThanWinston

Fiji took a hell of a hit on February 20th – and though we may be down, the images that have come through online have showed that despite the overwhelming scale of the damages, the resilience and spirit of the people still shine through.

I for one am super proud of all the people I know who are going out there and getting things done. Legends every one of them.
It’s no doubt, going to take a hell of a long time to recover, but I know behind those smiling faces of Fiji‘s people, are even bigger hearts – and by pulling together, we won’t just recover, we’ll be stronger than ever!

So to help give back to the country and people that have given us so much, a group which I am a part of on facebook, started an online appeal.

The purpose of the appeal is to raise funds and distribute them to the multiple groups that are on the ground helping people who so desperately need it. While the fund was made specifically for the Photographers of Fiji group members, we are also accepting donations from the public as well…. so if you’d like to add some to the kitty, it would be very much appreciated. Every cent counts!

The appeal will run till the 20th of February 2017, and as the needs on the ground change over time, the groups that receive donated funds will change also.
The funds will be donated at regular intervals – every week initially, then every month, until the year is up. All the money that is in the kitty at the time of disbursement, will be donated, but a running tally of donations will of course be kept.

If you do choose to donate to our cause (to which I thank you in advance) and you want to nominate a particular group from our list to focus your donation to, then just write down the group name and the percentage of your donation, and it will be done!

I myself am going to pledge at least 5% of my income for the next 12 months…

Find out more about our cause here: https://www.youcaring.com/StrongerThanWinston

Or you can just jump straight into donating by clicking here.

Brent & Jessenia at Royal Davui

Brent and Jessenia were my first wedding couple for the year and also my very first visit to Royal Davui, a small 5-star resort just off Beqa Island, the world famous home of the firewalkers.

Thanks to Cyclone Ula, their wedding had to be delayed – though fortunately, only for a day.  Just 3 days earlier, the entire resort had been evacuated because of the threat posed by the cyclone.  Although it had passed, the cyclone was still managing to have an affect on the weather, with the day alternating between bright sun and short fleeting showers.

Sadly I was on a tight schedule, so I could only spend a couple of hours with them before heading back to the mainland. Here are some memories from our brief time together…

The tempting turquoise waters surrounding the island.
The tempting turquoise waters surrounding the island.
I found Brent in his plunge pool, just enjoying the view of Beqa
I found Brent in his plunge pool, just enjoying the view of Beqa
Amazing view of Beqa Island
Amazing view of Beqa Island

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Jessenia had a giant ginger bouqet
Jessenia had a giant ginger bouqet

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Getting excited
Getting excited
Holding her vows
Holding her vows

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Jessenia and the warriors waited for a brief shower to pass
Jessenia and the warriors waited for a brief shower to pass
Time to get married!
Time to get married!
The rings
The rings

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First dance
First dance

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Love birds
Love birds

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Vatu Vara

Recently, I was fortunate enough to travel to Kaibu Island to spend a few days out on the breathtakingly beautiful resort of Vatu Vara.  This private luxury resort has just 3 villas, and some of the most stunning blue water views I have ever seen.

For more information on this stunning location, check out their website.
All images are mine, except for the aerial image.
Their site was designed by YesOpen.

Love the rustic construction of the thatched hut on the Villa Delana beach
Love the rustic construction of the thatched hut on the Villa Delana beach
A Pakapaka being prepared for a dinner feast at Valhalla Restaurant
A Pakapaka being prepared for a dinner feast at Valhalla Restaurant
The freshest catch has the fullest flavour!
The freshest catch has the fullest flavour!
A team of gardeners carefully tend the fully organic herb & vegetable garden every day.
A team of gardeners carefully tend the fully organic herb & vegetable garden every day.
Jim’s Bar & Grill – The best place to chomp on a burger in the South Pacific
Jim’s Bar & Grill – The best place to chomp on a burger in the South Pacific
The views from any of the 3 villa’s are always breathtaking
The views from any of the 3 villa’s are always breathtaking
Just you, a pair of hammocks and the Pacific Ocean
Just you, a pair of hammocks and the Pacific Ocean
Villa Vatu sun deck view to Vatu Vara
Villa Vatu sun deck view to Vatu Vara
It doesn't get much better than this!
It doesn’t get much better than this!
Dusk views from Villa Vatu
Dusk views from Villa Vatu
The inviting glow of Jim's Bar and Grill under the stars
The inviting glow of Jim’s Bar and Grill under the stars
Pausing to enjoy the views on the way to the abandoned village fort
Pausing to enjoy the views on the way to the abandoned village fort
The island of Vatu Vara
The island of Vatu Vara

Eremasi Rova

E3 – Portrait of a Fiji Rapper

Eremasi is often my able-bodied assistant on assignments, and occasionally gets in front of the camera if I think the light is looking cool, as is the case in the portrait below which was taken whilst we were doing an interior room shot at Nanuya Island Resort.

A multi-talented artist, he dabbles in Photography, Video and Music. He sings as E3, though ultimately he aspires to be a world class Music Producer.  You can find some of his recent music on soundcloud here.

Portrait of Eremasi using light filtering through louvre blades