I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

A young boy swims at the beach during sunset on the island of Tarawa, Kiribati.

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I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

On my final night in Kiribati, I went down to the beach to see my final, astonishing sunset. A bunch of kids were swimming and playing in the water, so I went over to see what they were up to. This girl was 'it' in a game of hide and seek, so was counting before she could get up and chase her friends. She wasn't the best however at not peeking..

I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

As I was taking photos of the kids from the deaf class, word spread around the school that such an event was taking place, and within minutes I had a queue around the building of students (and teachers) wanting portraits. This lady was one of the last teachers to get her photo taken after being pushed onto the bench by her colleagues. I'm amazingly thankful she was though because she had one of the warmest smiles I've seen. To me, I find the most power in a portrait comes from subtle expression; where the connection is understated but conveys a lot. Even the briefest encounters can yield powerful insights into people's personalities, and I think this woman is no exception.

I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

A father and daughter sit on the stoop of their beachside house, which they have built amongst the ruins of a Japanese WW2 gun emplacement.

These huge gun emplacements were built to defend the Japanese held Kiribati, which was captured to sever the USA’s trading and military routes across the Pacific Ocean in the 1940s.

On the 20th November 1943, the US beseiged Kiribati for 4 days in what is now known famously as the Battle of Tarawa. 

Destroyed cannons, bunkers, rusting tanks and other debris still litter the island and beaches and have progressively been incorporated into the local’s lives.

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I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

A young boy rests beneath a tree outside his house after falling over whilst playing with his friends. Due to the lack of space on the islands and the massive overpopulation on the main island of Tarawa, rubbish and junk has become a major social and environmental problem for the I-Kiribati.

As you can see on his left knee, he has a fresh wound from cutting himself on some pretty serious metal. The majority of I-Kiribati have very scarred legs (and other parts of their bodies) due to growing up surrounded by and playing in rusting cars, on old fences and all manner of pretty dangerous rubbish. Only recently in the past decade have local communities started to implement a garbage collection system, and have cordoned off an area of the island to use as a tip.

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I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

Due to the remote nature of the Kiribati islands, it’s hard (and very expensive) to both import and export goods - which includes rubbish and non-biodegradable waste. Broken down, abandoned vehicles that have been stripped of all their usable parts are strewn across the islands, where they become a playground for the local kids.

I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

This shot pretty much speaks for itself; just an adorably cute kid playing on the steps of a local under-construction church while his parents played bingo in the Maneaba (communal meeting building) behind me.

I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

This man is a coconut farmer. Due to the gross lack of space in South Tarawa and the overpopulation of the island, there leaves little room for agriculture or traditional farms. The main export from Kiribati are their coconuts and the crude coconut oil called copra. Due to the almost permanent humid conditions and tropical location of the islands, coconut trees flourish in Kiribati.

I-Kiribati Series

I-Kiribati Series

Biibii, another student at the school is in the youngest of the 3 classes for deaf students. She is deaf in her left ear, and also has a condition (Waardenburg syndrome) that affects some people with hearing loss in that one of her eyes is a brilliant blue colour when usually she would have 2 brown eyes.
The amount of preventable health conditions prevalent in Kiribati is directly related to the limitations of such a large population living in such a confined area. The density of South Tarawa is comparable to New York and Tokyo's population in the main parts of the city, however the infrastructure is non-existent. A large percentage of the population is unemployed and live in abject poverty. Due to the lack of sanitation, the poorest people relieve themselves in the lagoon in the centre of the island, and anywhere else they can find. These same people also fish, bathe and swim in the lagoon, which breeds high levels of e-coli and other bacteria due to the contamination. This constant exposure affects kids, adults, and future generations as diseases are easily and quickly spread between communities, which makes it very hard to control outbreaks.