I’ve recently returned from another trip to Vanuatu, spending another month on the islands. This will be the fourth installment from the South Pacific islands since starting the work in 2014. The project is loosely a series of four short stories of fantasy and belief – intertwined with the history of Vanuatu (previously the New Hebrides under British/French rule until 1980). Christopher Lord and myself have been collaborating to piece together what we hope will be an interesting story hinged around the backdrop of Cargo Cults.
Missionaries have been a continual presence on Vanuatu since the start of the 20th century, and the world wars have brought an influx of history and infrastructure. Both have shaped custom belief – largely around the idea that a man from a distant land will one day return to reinstate their traditional way of life and give them their rightful wealth: the cargo.
Following on from a previous post, Chris and I have been looking at a handful of characters who are attracted to the islands from the outside – coming in search of fantasy to find miraculous tales; the village that believes Prince Phillip is a mountain god, and another that believes the messiah is an American GI. There are tales of independence movements – one funded by a secretive American foundation, and another kick started by a militant who inspired a faction of islanders, headed by an overseas group – only with a royal pretender at its head.
The journey down to the southern hemisphere was a little less arduous this time, albeit a 30-hour transit until hitting the shores of Port Vila. I say this, mainly because my previous flight home included a 10-hour delay with engine problems (it even made the daily mail), but you can start to rely on everything you’ve learnt before, and refining protocol for long haul flights (diazepam) helps considerably.
The project has continued to evolve since the beginning, and we hoped this would be the case – each trip has opened doors to new elements that could be included in the work, but the aim for my recent trip was to slow down and spend time exploring without too much of a set agenda. I was set to travel alone as Chris was unable to join me, so I decided to take a good friend of mine, Roman Franc, along to help out. He’s a photographer from the Czech Republic – a very good one at that. The dynamic of the trip was purely about image making, mostly stills but a little video too, and wandering with an open mind to what we might find instead of chasing what I already knew. Having someone new, seeing the islands for the first time with fresh eyes, was a great addition to the project, and having additional creative input and support was sometimes vital when the heat and humidity was sapping your enthusiasm.
I have attached a handful of images here from the recent trip – but you can also see some more on the work section of the website. More information will be available soon.