Project Fiji 2016 – Portraits from Paradise

Project Fiji 2016 – Portraits from Paradise

Serendipity is an amazing thing. I am often surpirsed by how many good things land at one’s feet by complete happenstance and random chance.

This was exactly what happened in 2011, on what was meant to be a simple vacation in Fiji – serendipity turned up and planted the seed for one of the biggest and most meaningful projects I’ve ever conceived.

It is my sincere hope to turn this idea into a reality in 2016.

A Little Background

This all started as a holiday at Manta Ray Island resort in the Yasawas, a chain of islands north-west of Viti Levu (One of Fiji’s 2 main islands)

The Yasawas are an archipelago of around 20 volcanic islands with an approximate total area of 135 square kilometres.

Naviti Island is one of the islands in the archipelago, and it is on this island that you’ll find Soso Village.

Most of the staff at Manta Ray resort live in Soso Village, which is about 15 minutes away by motor launch, as it is on another island.

Soso village (as with many in the Yasawas) benefits from tourism in the area. For a small donation one can visit the village, meet the people and purchase handmade crafts.

This story begins during one of these visits…

Church, children and a seized opportunity.

During our stay at Manta Ray resort we were given the opportunity to visit the village and attend church. What I remember most of this experience was the incredible singing! Sitting in the pews, listening to the hymns sung in perfect harmony was a very memorable experience.

I found out during this trip that the children were currently on holiday. Never one to let an opportunity slip through my hand, I approached our guide to the village and discussed the possibiltiy of returning the following day to photograph portraits of those children and families who were interested. The idea was happily accepted.

Every family deserves memories of its children.

I have always believed in the value of good portraiture. The photographs we create today are tomorrow’s priceless heirlooms. We live in a world where most of us walk around with a camera in our pocket – we’re taking more pictures than we ever did before. For the most part, these pictures are pretty average and often never put on display or seen by anyone else.

However, there is one thing worse than a mediocre image – having no image at all.

When it comes to our families and our children, I believe that not having these memories and visual reminders is an absolute tragedy.

This was the motivation for returning on the Monday – to create memories for a beautiful and immensely hospital group of people who generally don’t have photographs of their children.

The day spent in the village photographing the kids was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

I returned to New Zealand, edited the images and posted them back to the village.

I believe that I did something of value, but I knew it could be done better and on a larger scale with proper planning, and I vowed that I’d be back to do so.

The time to return has come…

A project like this takes immense planning and a fair amount of logisitcs to do properly. It has always been my intention to get it done, but the timing has never been favourable.

…until now.

Lately the little voice in my head urging me to move ahead with this idea has been harder to ignore, and pretty insistent!

The time for action has come, and I’ve taken some pretty serious steps to complete this project in 2016.

  • I have made contact with the village and received permission to undertake this project next year.
  • I have drawn up my budget and started working towards funding for the expenses.
  • I have applied for an AMP “Do your thing scholarship”.

The scope of the project.

This project is big, and the more I discuss with my liaison to the village the more opportunities I find for this idea to do bigger and better things.

My initial goal wass to photograph the 60-70 children living in the village.

I have since realised that there is an opportunity here to do something meaningful for the school in the village as well.

School portraits, reading material and sporting equipment are all things that would make a positive difference.


January 2016

  • Travel to Soso to meet with the village and finalise the exact scope of the work to be done.
  • Set up Kickstarter campaign

February – May 2016

  • Procure funding for the project.

May/June 2016

  • Travel to Soso with equipment and assistant to complete the project.
  • Use Manta Ray resort as a base of operations (access to electricity for charging equipment and soft proofing).
  • Spend the week in the village photographing the children/families and documenting village life.
  • Estimate 7 days for completion of work.

July 2016

  • Edit and print images

August 2016

  • Image delivery to Soso Village.

Projected Budget: $19 924

Planning Visit: $1685 

  • Airfare $800
  • Accomodation Nadi 2 nights $200
  • Transfer to Manta Ray $137
  • Accomodation + meals Manta Ray Resort (2 nights) $548

Main Visit: $7554 (2 people)

  • Airfare $1600
  • Accomodation Nadi 2 nights $400
  • Transfer to Manta Ray $274
  • Accomodation + meals Manta Ray Resort (6 nights) $2100
  • Excess baggage for equipment $1000 (est)
  • Insurance on equipment $500 (est)
  • Assistant Fee: $1680 ($30/hour x 8 hours/day x 7 days)

Prints: $8000 (+- 100 framed A4 prints)

Delivery Visit: $2685 

  • Airfare $800
  • Accomodation Nadi 2 nights $200
  • Transfer to Manta Ray $137
  • Accomodation + meals Manta Ray Resort (2 nights) $548
  • Excess baggage (for prints) $1000 (est)

I honestly believe that this dream is well within reach. I would be immensely happy if this time next year sees me blogging about the experience.

Wish me luck!