seeing and understanding

To intending tourists, images of New Caledonia's islands must appear achingly beautiful. If you've any doubt, type Ouvéa, Maré or Île des Pins into Google images. But look at anything long enough, and you can be sure that more will always meet the eye. What I noticed first from pouring over my images from New Caledonia earlier this year was a distinct tranquillity.

These two images, for example, are intended to be appealing in and of themselves. Both have a seemingly endless ocean with no waves or turbulence to speak of, and a distant sky. While the first image is punctuated by some thin tree limbs (traditional fishing poles), the second image's horizontal elements are anchored by a monolithic boat ramp. Nonetheless, there is a certain serenity about each image.

In contradistinction, on the island where these images were taken, 18 indigenous Kanak and six French gendarmes were killed in 1988. Those deaths and the tumultuous events surrounding them precipitated an opportunity for New Caledonia to seek independence from its colonial power, France, once Territorial Congressional elections have been held in May 2014. Whether the opportunity will be taken remains to be seen, so independence through this particular mechanism is by no means a fait accompli.

What fishing poles and a boat ramp—and other subjects from about time—have to do with New Caledonian independence, is perhaps a little obscure, but the giveaway is the title of the series. Though change is inevitable, it isn't necessarily uniform, sudden or positive. Which is ultimately more ecologically (and therefore socially and economically) sustainable: Shore based fishing poles which rely on fish coming to the lures, or a boat ramp which launches boats with sophisticated sonar to detect shoals of fish to be caught by the thousands?

The images from about time, ostensibly portray tranquillity, but they're intended to communicate more; the passing of time, and the inevitability and complexity of change. What each comparison might evoke in terms of value judgements about New Caledonia's past and future is for viewers to interpret.