Beauty, diversity, humanity – these are the three “elements” able to transform a busy lawyer, caught in the very middle of his busy day, into a street photographer whose camera avidly captures every colour, texture, emotion. Jon Apted founds Humans of the Fiji Islands for a pure joy of celebrating and sharing the beauty of his country – through its people. Although “free” from any long-term plans, his ever-growing archive of photo-portraits is a precious contribution to Fijians living home and abroad.
“I have no long-terms plans. I’m a busy lawyer normally. This is purely a personal hobby that I do as a break from my job and purely for the joy of celebrating and sharing the beauty of the people of my country. I don’t want to spoil it by making it a serious pursuit. I consider myself an enthusiastic amateur and I like it that way”, says Jon Apted, founder of Humans of the Fiji Islands.
Bastart: How did you decide to give your hobby the form of “Humans of”?
Jon Apted: I was already taking and posting pictures of random people around Fiji like those I now use on the Humans of the Fiji Islands page. However, only my friends could see them. An American suggested that I start a page like HONY that would allow me to share my pictures with more people. I then had a look at Stanton’s project and other Humans pages and saw that he did not mind others adapting the concept to their city or country.
B: Story or picture, which is more important for you?
J: I look for either a strong image or a story. This is usually not just the face. It is the person in a context or environment. I like strong colours, or textures, or character in an environment that is typically Fijian.
B: Is it hard to get people talk and tell stories?
J: Yes, I do find it difficult. Often it is because I personally do not have time. As I am very busy in my job, in an hour or two I make photos that normally would take me a week… So I have to rush from photo to photo!
I think the best posts are the ones that have a good story and a photo. Still, a lot of time I have to just go with the image alone, hoping there is enough of a narrative in the picture to tell a story by itself.
B: “Humans”, not “People”. What’s your interpretation?
J: Apart from the fact that the term “humans” is a catchier word, I believe it better describes what my work is about. Though it’s only one of many Humans projects, my work is about celebrating and sharing the humanity of the people of Fiji through my pictures.
By humanity I mean the characteristics and emotions that we share as well as what makes us different from each other or from humans of other countries. The term “people” suggests a series of portraits of individuals; “humans” is about celebrating our species.
B: Humans of the Fiji Islands in five words?
J: Diversity. Dignity. Emotion. Colour. Fiji.
B: The “Humans of” phenomenon: closer to Wikipedia or Google Maps?
J: It is a bit of both, but more Wikipedia than Google Maps. It tells you more about the community than the place on the globe that they happen to be.
Jon’s question to Bastart and the readers: I would be interested to know what you see in the pictures from the other side of the world. Most of my followers are from Fiji themselves. Most of the comments are made by Fijians who are now in the other parts of the world. The photos mean a lot to them. It gives me a great satisfaction to be able to capture for them the essence of “home”. I still wonder what others see…
“We’re Daisy and Margaret Naidu. What you gonna write? They just came from Church?”
“Are you filled with the Spirit?”
“Well we’re getting there!”
Sandhya in Vaileka on Saturday morning.
‘What do you girls have in common apart from being pretty? Are you related or do you go to the same school?’
“No. no. We’re just all from Lau.”
Sunny-side up: Seema on Laucala Bay Rd.For more information about Humans of the Fiji Islands please visit the official Facebook page. For more information about the HO phenomenon read Ode to the Humans.
Words by Jurgita Po.Alessi