When you say the word Fiji, the sort of thing that comes to mind is generally some variation on this:
(In fact, the variation is probably a little more attractive than this particular beach, which is artificially created- and raked- on the edge of what would once have been mangrove swamps around the heavily developed Denarau Island)
Fiji, like many places that are high on the tourist agenda, is actually a bit of a melting pot. It has rich bits and poor bits, pretty bits and ugly bits, and all kind of swirly dichotomies in the mix. Its population, for example, is a blend of Melanesian, Polynesian, and Indian (or Indo-Fijian). (The Indians were brought in as labourers to harvest the sugar cane crop, and stayed to set up businesses; they now make up slightly less than 50% of the population and were apparently an absolute majority before the coup).
Oh yeah, that’s the other thing about Fiji. It’s kind of under a form of Military Dictatorship Lite.
I’m faecetious about the thing only because when you compare Fiji’s to other coup-prone countries like recent bloodbath in Guinea, or the cuddly chaps who run Chad, Frankie (Bainimarama- who heads up Fiji’s junta) comes across as all kinds of benevolent. Of course, for political opponents on the little archipelagic state (and for the Powers That Be in the Commonwealth, who have suspended Fiji, putting it into the same category of nations as Zimbabwe- God Bless Bob) this isn’t much of a laughing matter.
At any rate, behind the touristy facade of Hiltons, Westins, Sheratons and Holiday Inns (or is that Holidays Inn?), there is a real country with real socio-economic disparity. Again, compared to the levels of poverty and physical deprivation you find in Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s hard to get too excited about the situation in the Pacific (as I discovered during my time in PNG). Fiji really isn’t all that poor by comparison, especially with the huge annual influx of tourist dollars. None the less, there’s a more impoverished side that most visitors don’t visit.
I was in Fiji for work (yeah, I have a crappy job, eh?), which I’ll probably tell you more about on a later post sometime in early August for reasons which will become clear then. Part of that work involved checking out some of the local communities, and while it was interesting to take a wander round and see bits of Fiji I’ve missed before, I did, obviously, take the opportunity to do some clicking. Just for a change.
This little series of shots I took at a village at the very end of the day, as the sun was going down behind the trees. As such a few of my photos were a little blurry as I was shooting in moderately (though not extremely) low light. As we came out of the village meeting house, there were lots of kids playing on the green, and when they saw the camera, they got very excited.
I took this first shot moments after bringing the camera up. These little tykes over in the distance (I’m shooting on my 85mm stopped all the way down to f/1.8 here) took one look at me and dashed together into a huddle, grinning cheekily despite being 20m away from me. I loved the effect- the kids in focus and the rest of the frame blurred out from the shallow depth of field- and the free-form mob they created.
(Click on the image to see the full-size pic, which will let you enjoy it a lot more)
After that I had kids rushing at me and it was a scramble to keep them off the lens. The 85mm was useless for snapping group photos at close range, and at first as I backed up, they kept following me. However I did manage to get this one shot which I really loved. The framing is ‘imperfect’ in that I’ve lopped off the head of one lad, and a second is out of focus with the shallow depth-of-field. However I love the expression on the face of the taller boy, and the sharpness of that image, and somehow the balance of the composition with the three heads just works. Well, I like it anyway.
I managed a couple of group shots after that. They’re a hit-and-miss sort of photo in that they can be boring, and they’re often less intimate than portraits of one or two people (see above), and the chances of getting all members looking at the camera are pretty much nil- especially with kids. In this case the children all insisted on making hand-gestures at the camera, the value of which I’m not sure about, but they clearly meant something because from the largest to the smallest they seemed intent on doing so. But these two shots I liked. The first was taken on the 85mm, and the second on my 16mm (which on the full-frame Canon EOS 5D gives an enourmous wide angle).
A brief comparison of the two shots also tells you a little about the difference between telephoto and wide-angle. While the children in both images are taking up about the same amount of the frame, you can see how the telephoto has sucked right in to (and blurred) the background, while the wide-angle has embraced a huge chunk of the village behind it.
Also, I love the waving hands of the little tyke in blue.
I was only in Fiji for 2 days (it’s my 3rd trip there so I didn’t feel too hard-done by), but I’m heading back to Fiji at the end of this month and I’m hoping for stacks more shots. I will, predictably, keep you posted.