Wrong Side of Paradise - Fiji - Photojournalism

Wrong Side of Paradise - Fiji - Photojournalism

Wrong Side of Paradise – Photojournalism – Time Magazine Assignment

Australian Photojournalist - John Wilson

I traveled to Fiji Islands on a Time Magazine assignment to document a story on squatter’s settlements and crowded living experienced by the countries poor

Fiji location map

Map of Fiji

Squatter’s camps around the capital Suva and other locations house about 20% of the nation's population. In the larger settlements around Suva 800+ families are accommodated in shanty living conditions.

With no running water or sewerage, the living conditions in the shantytowns are barely liveable. Some of the residents dangerously siphon electricity power from power lines running past the camp while others use kerosene lamps for night time lighting. Security, or more correctly, lack of security is an issue in the settlements. There is also an issue of child illiteracy in the settlements even though education is free in Fiji. Many families in the squatter settlements can barely afford basic living necessities let alone school books and clothes.

Fiji squatter Grand mother and grandson

Fiji squatter dwelling

Fiji squatter children

Fiji squatter camp

In recent times as more people look for housing some squatters have rented out rooms (if they can be called rooms) to try to earn some money. This increased concentration of people in an environment already overcrowded presents more social problems in these communities.

Back Story

I travelled through many of the squatters camps around Suva with Time magazine writer Rory Callinan. Its always difficult reporting on the personal lives of people but we conducted our work with great respect and we were welcomed into many tiny, cramped homes brimming with people going about their daily lives the best they can and willing to explain their circumstances to us. I stayed with some families throughout their days and nights to make some photos. If talking to people about their personal lives required great respect than making photos as well in these situations requires even greater respect and patience. In these situations I always try to capture some personality of my subjects while also trying to capture a sense of place to allow the reader to get a feel for the story I'm photographing.

Each morning and evening I would collaborate with the writer to discuss the day ahead and what we wanted to achieve and in the evening we would go over our work, We'd often be up before dawn and finis well into the night, often after midnight. On one particular occasion we decided we need an elevated view of one of the sprawling camps and unable to get a plane or helicopter a resorted to hiring a "Cherry Picker" which is a hydraulic crane on the back of a truck. This caused some amusement at the camp as residents gathered to see what I was doing!!

My Kit

For this assignment I used a couple of Nikon D2x cameras, nikon 80-200mm f2.8 lens, nikon 21mm f2.8 lens, nikon 55mm micro lens, Nikon 85mm f1.8 lens, Nikon 300mm f2.8 lens, Nikon 1.4x and 2x teleconverter, a couple of Nikon flash units with off camera extn leads and some warming and cooling filters, laptop and additional memory cards for back up copies of all images, penlight torch and leatherman tool, manfrotto monopod. I used a Domke F1x camera bag for most of my camera gear and a lowepro back pack for some additional gear and laptop.

Fiji squatter house

Fiji squatter resident

Fiji squatter on verandah

Fiji squatter mother and baby