The Black Islands – part two



Back in November 2012, I wrote about a crowd-funding project by the photographer Ben Bohane. Based in Vanuatu, Ben has created an image archive that is now the most comprehensive visual document anywhere of the life and times of the Pacific islands of Melanesia.

Black Islands book (400)2His fund-raising was successful and as a result he published a fascinating and truly beautiful book.

This is no cheaply produced affair. It is a large, well designed and printed hard-back in a strong protective slip-case. I wonder if any commercial publisher would have gone to such trouble to create something that is both an elegant object and an eloquent communicator of information and feeling.

We are now well aware that, for certain types of project, crowd funding is a way to circumvent the ‘gate keepers’ of public funding and the foibles of rich philanthropists. It allows projects to be realised that might otherwise never see the light of day. But, less obviously, it can mean that a project such as this achieves an outcome of a higher order than either commercial or bureaucratic mechanisms might permit. The action of the many working together not only makes things possible, but has the capacity to ensure their improved quality.

Perhaps we should remember this when those who would defend the monopoly of government arts agencies and the taste of the wealthy as the necessary filters to ‘quality’ and a defence against the ‘dumbing down’ of the mass, that the reverse may prove to be true. When we work together on things that really matter to us, we instinctively strive to do them well.

It is, of course, Ben Bohane who has ensured the excellence of this publication, just as it is the artists who receive funding or philanthropy that are responsible for the nature of what is produced. But the source of the money – the means by which that end is achieved – lies in the hands of those who control it. Looks like together we can make a pretty good job of that when we choose to work collaboratively and collectively.

Image strip (Bohane) 640


To learn more about Ben Bohane’s book, ‘The Black Islands: Spirit and War in Melanesia’  and to purchase a copy, please visit the Waka Photos website.

You can read the original post about this project here.


All images © Ben Bohane

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  • The majority of the texts on this site are by Alasdair Foster and represent his opinions. However, in order to facilitate a useful diversity of views, some texts have been invited from artists and colleagues around the world, while others appear as independent comments. These opinions and comments are not necessarily those of Alasdair Foster or Cultural Development Consulting (CDC). All data and information on this site is provided on an as-is basis. While every effort is made to be as thorough as possible, neither Alasdair Foster nor CDC make representations as to accuracy, completeness, currency, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.