I took this photograph in 2007, and it’s still one of my faves. It was included in the 2008 “Eyes on the World” exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA. I reconnected with this image as I reviewed some of my past Solomon Islands photos in prep for our return trip there later this month.
Josh and I were working at the time as relief managers and underwater photo-video pros on the dive liveaboard Bilikiki. At each dive site we visited, local villagers would paddle out to say hello and sell their fresh produce: eggplant, sweet potato, paw paw (papaya), banana, sugar cane, pumpkin, coconut, ngali nuts. The villagers use large leaves (often taro or banana) to keep their fruits and vegetables shaded until it’s time for business.
On this particular day there was quite a large crowd of canoes. I’d just surfaced from a dive where I was shooting with the Nikon 16mm fisheye. I only had a few minutes to get the camera out of the housing, run up to the top deck, and take a few photos while leaning as far over the railings as I could. Then it was time to help the crew at this impromptu market.
To keep things fair at these markets, we always tried to buy equal amounts of fruit and veg from every seller. The crew have a system that works well: buy one type of food at a time. In this photograph, for example, it’s the turn of the sweet potatoes. All the villagers pass their sweet potatoes forward, and the crew buy an equal amount from every basket. Any surplus gets passed back to the canoes. Then, onto the next type of food. And repeat. These canoes were nearly cleaned out an hour after the photo was taken.
I especially love how so many of the people are holding onto their neighbour’s canoe, helping keep the market from drifting away in the current. There was a lot of laughter and banter within this tight-knit community. I hope the image goes some way to capture the vibrancy and energy of the scene.