Big Fence / Pitcairn Island

Back in 2015, Rhiannon Adam, inspired by a childhood gift of The Mutiny on The Bounty and a desire to capture the island’s fragility on expiring analogue film, made the long journey to Pitcairn Island. Due to the quarterly shipping schedule, she remained trapped on the island for 96 nights. Naturally suspicious of ‘journalists’, Pitcairners were, on the whole, reluctant to be involved in Rhiannon’s project. Throughout the book, subjects mostly appear alone, photographed in solitude and away from prying eyes.

Designed to be as impenetrable and complex as the island itself, Rhiannon’s publication comprises of two parts: Rhiannon’s own experience of the island as related through her captions and personal stories, and a volume of photographs and related archive. The latter charts the development of the particular characteristics that led to community breakdown, from both a contemporary and historical perspective. Throughout, Rhiannon encourages us to consider the dangers of romanticism and to reflect on our collective culpability for female subjugation.

Purchase Big Fence through Rhiannon’s website.

Pitcairn Island – an enigmatic place; legendary and infamous. A volcanic blip in the vast blue of the Pacific: 2 miles long, one mile wide, Britain’s last Pacific Overseas Territory. About as far from anywhere as it is possible to be, accessible only by quarterly supply vessel. No way on, no way off. Today just one child and 42 islanders remain.

Rhiannon Adam remained on Pitcairn alone for 96 nights, followed by a 21 day sea voyage aboard the Claymore II to New Zealand, the island’s supply vessel.

“The project evolved as I was there, changing as my own entrapment intensified. It felt like a prison sentence in itself.”

Pitcairn is well known as the archetypal paradise – made famous as Mutiny on the Bounty island, an Anglo-Tahitian idyll, with multiple Hollywood adaptations reinforcing the fiction. A fiction that supports the island economy and keeps all within trapped by their own history.

But more recently, another, darker, side to the island came into view. Secrets that had ripped the community apart, convictions that had shocked the world. Wounds that would never heal. Spurred by testimony from one brave Pitcairn girl, a total of 8 living Pitcairn men were convicted of sexual crimes against young girls in 2004 and 2007, one of whom is the island’s current mayor, Shawn Christian, and another his father, Steve Christian, former mayor and my island host. Paradise Lost.

With each subject I had just one opportunity - many taking months of coercion. As a result, those absent in the project perhaps tell a more potent story than those who are included.

Rhiannon Adam