As an unconventional, light skinned, young woman, behaving strangely and talking broken Tok Pisin on my travels around PNG, I have become very used to being looked upon by lik lik pikininis (little children) with wonder, curiosity and sometimes uncertainty. That moment when shiny eyes catch a glimpse of you and they are transfixed by what is different or interesting is captivating wherever you are in the world, but when you know that often it is because you are an unusual looking visitor in their land, who is truly in the minority, makes it all the more special and is a reminder of the impact that you have just by being here.
There is something particularly captivating about the innocence in that moment and something even more magical about the inquisitiveness in the way a small human looks at you if they spot something that they can’t explain or that ignites their imagination. It has become a pleasure capturing these innocent interactions through the lens of a camera as well as seeing children happily entertain themselves in their beautiful natural surroundings not tainted by technology but immersed in simple play with everyday objects. This creativity and simplicity of life is something that I feel is so often lost in the developed world.
Each quizzical gaze into the camera captures a beautiful moment on my journey in the land of the unexpected and is a reminder of the unspoken influence that you have due to what has gone before you.
During a trip to Bougainville I took a road trip South to Arawa and went on a day trip to Pidia, an island community where the movie Mr Pip was filmed. I met these two cheeky monkeys who were instantly transfixed and spent the whole trip reveling in their curious white meri company and playing in their natural, sandy wonderland. I love the sandy contrast against the exceptionally dark pigment Bougainvillian skin and the piercing eyes of these little girls.
This little poro was captured in the busy waiting room at the Madang clinic. She couldn’t keep her eyes off me as I took images for Marie Stopes to show the incredible work that they are doing providing family planning services to remote communities.
This giggling girl is my friend Shirley’s daughter. Little Lillian was a bit unsure of me at first but secretly she was a show stopper desperate to be snapped and she laughed away with her sister in their small room at Redscar in Madang while I captured photos of her newly born twin sisters Michelyn and Michela for a photo series on why development works.
Little crisp muncher
I met this little girl, sat in a covered dinghy, on the way from Sandersons Bay to Logeia island in Milne Bay. She was eyeing up my prized bag of salt and vinegar crisps, which are a bit of a find in PNG, so I had to share them but I wasn’t expecting her to empty the bag with one swift handful! A skilled crisp swiper indeed!
Just outside of Madang the urban setting melts away and the settlements and villages take over. On an adventure into the bush on the lookout for the wreckage of downed WWII planes we came across a lovely family and this healthy, glistening eyed baby curious as to who had stumbled upon their home.
On the enchantingly peaceful Logeia island in Milne Bay I was watched intently by this little island lady as I snapped away happily while the sun began to set and cast beautiful hues across the sea. Her striking features are typical from this island province.
Bamboo beach locomotives
This little man was happily playing away in the sand with his bamboo train on Pidia island in Bougainville until I came and disturbed his fun. He certainly wasn’t sure about me passing through his sandy playground as his expression makes plainly clear but I loved his creativity and imagination.
Without question this is one of my favourite photos. As I took a walk out in the bush in Enga and was greeted by the friendly local people offering sugar cane I realised that I was being followed by this little girl barefoot on her way home with her bilum. As I turned she gazed at me, frozen and unsure whether to pass by but continued to look at me somewhat puzzled by this strange visitor. I love that she looks so grown up in her meri blaus with her shell money necklace but her expression looks so young.
Waiting for the rain to clear, sat under a bamboo shelter on Pidia island I was kept company by this inquisitive little girl. She sat staring at me while I tried to talk to her but she didn’t speak English or Tok Pisin, only her Tok Ples (home language) so mainly she curiously watched me as I huddled out of the warm rain.
Custom made car
The children on Pidia really were creative with their play. This little boy has made his own type of push along car with a curved stick and a spool. I often see groups of lik lik pikininis playing with car tyres and sticks but I loved this simple home made construction to fill the hours of play at the weekend. I love the fact that it looks like he is thinking “what is this long long (mad) white meri doing”, a look I have become very familiar with since living in this beautiful and diverse country!
* All photos included in this series are consented excluding a couple that were captured momentarily and where no consenting adult was present.