A fascinating new photo book documenting Pitcairn Island – which became home to fugitives following the mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1790 – explores the unique and dark history of this infamous island and its descendants.
Big Fence / Pitcairn Island came about when photographer Rhiannon Adam decided to document the island on expired Polaroid film (opens in new tab), having been inspired by the Mutiny on the Bounty novel. Her plans for the book were quickly changed, however, when she became trapped on the island for 96 nights due to the quarterly shipping schedule.
As such, the book combines her images with found photographs and archival materials from the troubled island – Britain’s last inhabited Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean, standing at just two miles by one mile and with a population of fewer than 50 inhabitants.
Despite the romanticized notions of Pitcairn, born from the dozens of books and films based on its history, the island was rocked by child abuse allegations in 2004. Three years later, eight Pitcairners (half the adult male population of the island) stood convicted – including mayor Steve Christian, whose home 'Big Fence' inspired the name of the book.
Understandably, the island's residence were generally suspicious of Adam's outside interest and were reticent about being involved. As a result, Big Fence / Pitcairn Island features a lot of solitary images, captured in private and out of public view – providing a very privileged insight into the island community.
The first half of the book features such photography and experiences from Adam, with the second half devoted to archive material, photographs and texts – the latter giving a fascinating look at the island and its downfall from both current and historical contexts.
"The project unravels how the fantasies that ensconce the island and its inhabitants have had devastating consequences for women, while illustrating how morality is deeply entrenched in the patriarchy’s political and social agendas," writes photographic director Gem Fletcher, in her essay in the book.
"This is not as binary as right or wrong – but rather a web of interconnected opinions and values that go some way to creating the conditions for this type of crime to occur."
Big Fence / Pitcairn Island is published by Blow Up Press (ISBN: 978-83-952840-5-2) and is available now (opens in new tab) for $109.65 / £93.00 / AU$158.77. You can find out more about Rhiannon Adam at her website (opens in new tab).
Best books about photography
(opens in new tab)Best Polaroid cameras
(opens in new tab)Best lenses for street photography, documentary, reportage (opens in new tab)