“Mike was naturally suspicious of me. In my first week I attended his bail hearing in the Public Hall, linked to a court in New Zealand via satellite video. Mike’s trial had become very drawn out and all involved were suffering from fatigue – technical issues with courtroom timings and the unstable video link between the island and New Zealand had resulted in numerous delays. In a completely Pitcairn twist, Mike was the island’s communications officer – responsible for the video link itself.
In Pitcairn’s makeshift court, he would sit barefoot on a chair in front of the small webcam, leaping up to wiggle cables if the connection froze. It seemed a glaringly obvious conflict of interest and many suspected foul play.
As we left court, I from the seats at the side; the public ‘gallery’, and Mike from an office chair; ‘the dock’ – we exited through the same door and back into Adamstown’s square. It was the first time we had spoken. In his lightly nasal voice, Mike said he had seen me struggling with the mosquitoes, and offered me some bug spray, before asking me what I thought of his trial. I faltered. I wasn’t used to being faced by the accused so directly. What was I to say? What would have been an appropriate comment?
After that first meeting, I would often see Mike and his mother Royal working on dismantling the former home of Terry Young (aka Down ‘Toge’). Toge had been Brian Young’s brother and Dennis Christian’s best friend; he had also been convicted in the trials but had died en route to Mangareva after a passing boat had attempted his medical evacuation.
The house was sat at the side of the main road, and Mike would be there most days, painstakingly breaking it apart, saving each and every nail and screw. I would often stop to chat – and Mike would address me cautiously, evading my requests to photograph him. I battled through his barriers, and forged, I suppose, what one could call a friendship with Mike, or at least by Pitcairn standards.
When I left the island, he gave me a parting gift, after finding me weeping outside of the square in a downpour. I wondered if he was a victim of his environment, of the loneliness, of the powerlessness. Though the crimes for which he was convicted in 2016 (after my departure) were abhorrent to me, on Pitcairn you take friendship wherever you can and in whatever form it appears.
In 2016, Pitcairn’s jail reopened to accommodate him. This image was shot in the early morning, when Mike would take weather readings at the radio station at Taro Ground. The station was now defunct, but it had been the centre of Pitcairn’s contact with the outside world. Now with email, HAM radio had become less necessary.
Pitcairn’s isolated position had made it an important site for Pacific weather reporting, and it is Mike’s responsibility to record and transmit the readings. On the morning this was taken, we spent several hours together, and again his trial came up – ‘Only God can judge, and I am sure he has a plan for me’.” – Rhiannon Adam
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Big Fence / Pitcairn Island
The Pitcairn Islands are the last British Overseas Territory in the South Pacific. Pitcairn was permanently settled by the infamous Bounty mutineers and their Polynesian captives in 1790, and their descendents, now numbering fewer than 40, still live there today.
The tiny, isolated, volcanic island measures just two by one miles, is 400 nautical miles away from its nearest neighbour, and is the least populated jurisdiction in the world. Due to the infrequent supply ship schedule (the island’s only direct access), Rhiannon Adam was trapped on Pitcairn for three months, spending two of those living at Big Fence… READ MORE
Rhiannon Adam is a photographic artist, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1985. She currently lives and works between London and the US.
In 1992, her parents sold everything they owned and bought a live-aboard sailing boat, Jannes. From that point, her childhood became nomadic, moving from place to place, mainly around South America and the Caribbean. She eventually moved to London as a teenager to live her with aunt, enabling her to begin mainstream education. She later studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and at the University of Cambridge.
Adam’s work is centred on research-based, long-form, social documentary projects that make use of analogue photographic processes and archive materials, as well as her on-going obsession with Polaroid and the materiality of the photographic image. Her early life experiences have had a lasting influence on her work, with a focus on remote communities, the concept of utopia, and the fine line between fact and fiction… READ MORE