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© Rhiannon Adam

© Rhiannon Adam

Listen to the programme HERE


079 - Rhiannon Adam

Rhiannon Adam was born in County Cork, Ireland and currently lives and works in London. She was educated at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, and at the University of Cambridge, where she read English.

Her work is heavily influenced by her peripatetic childhood spent at sea, sailing around the world with her parents. Something she talks about during our chat. Virtually no photographic evidence of this period in her life exists and that fact ignited an interest in the influence of photography on recall, the notion of the photograph as a physical object, and the image as an intersection between fact and fiction – themes that continue throughout her work. 

Her long-term projects straddle the boundary between art photography and social documentary, while subject matter is often focused on narratives relating to myth, loneliness, and the passage of time, particularly in relation to isolated communities. The results of these explorations are captured almost exclusively in ambient light through the hazy abstraction of degrading instant-film materials and colour negative film. 

In 2015, supported by the BBC and the Royal Geographical Society, Rhiannon travelled to the remote island community of Pitcairn in the South Pacific. Pitcairn measures just two miles by one mile and is home to just 42 British subjects, descendants from the Mutiny on the Bounty. A decade ago, the island’s romantic image was tarnished by a string of high profile sexual abuse trials and, as a result, islanders are particularly reticent about accepting outsiders. With the duration of her trip dictated by the quarterly supply vessel, there would be no way off for three arduous months. Adam’s project is the first in-depth photographic project to take place on the island and is currently being exhibited at the Francesca Maffeo Gallery, in Leigh on sea, here in the U.K. until June 9th this year.

In episode 079, Rhiannon discusses, among other things:

  • Why it's taken 3 years to bring the work to fruition
  • Her unusual childhood at sea and why there are no pictures of that time.
  • The genesis of the project in a batch of stockpiled, expired polaroid film.
  • Winning an award + Kickstarter to fund it.
  • The hostility she faced from the start
  • Daily life on Pitcairn
  • Her unwelcome bedroom visitor
  • The emotional upheaval of finally leaving
  • The ring that is here momento of the trip

Rhiannon's book Polaroid: The Missing Manual.
The radio programme Rhiannon made for the BBC's Journey Of A Lifetime.

“I think that having an individual personality and your own individual freedoms is just not something to be taken lightly. That’s been my big takeaway from Pitcairn. It’s just, everything else is going to be easy from here on in because, you know, it’s not there!”