interview: jeremy beasley, the voice of the rain
Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zones to see what’s really important in life. For Jeremy Beasley, spending 18 days with a Fijian family earlier this year meant deciding to use his photography skills to help build them a new home.
A photographer by trade, Jeremy hails from Melbourne, where he runs his own business. His time photographing the Evisisi family in Fiji inspired him to try and help the family through his art. Jeremy is aiming to put together a photography book that captures the family’s way of life. With money raised from the sale of the book, he then hopes to be able to fund the building of a new house for the family.
I asked Jeremy to share a bit more about this inspiring project with Lip.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I studied photography in Canberra at CIT, after leaving an Engineering degree at ANU and following my true passion. One way or another I’ve been making pictures since 2005 and started running my own business full time in 2008. Through that time I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph all over Australia and internationally including wedding assignments to Italy, Fiji, Vietnam & Hawaii.
Now my career is changing, after the dramatic effect the Evisisi family had on my life. I’ve committed to photographing five months (completely unpaid and self funded) overseas next year working on more documentary projects, to help people with photography.
Why did you visit Fiji? What made you choose to photograph the Evisisi family?
I went over in April to photograph an Australian couple’s wedding (as that’s my normal job). After meeting the family an overwhelming feeling came over me and I just knew I had to come back. I didn’t know why, how or for what. I just knew that it would be a life changing experience.
Tell us a bit about your time in Fiji – what inspired you to start The Voice Of The Rain project?
It was a rollercoaster of emotions the whole trip. The family was so incredibly generous and welcoming. We would sit and eat every meal together (breakfast lunch and dinner) all prepared by Sulu (the mother) and chat about all things. From day to day life, where I lived in Australia, what I do – why I do it, family, friends, relationships – the whole thing.
After a week or so it basically came to the point where I was a part of their family. We all slept in the same room, bathed in the same river, used the same toilet. They taught me some Fijian language and their particular dialect, including all of the important terms (mainly based around family).
How important do you think this project is, not just for the Evisisi family, but for raising awareness of conditions in Fiji more broadly?
Previous to this year, I’d never been to Fiji. From all of the images we see and the thoughts around the country, I thought it was this wonderful untouched paradise with nothing but sandy white beaches and palm trees.
A little ignorant, perhaps. But after returning to Australia and chatting with people, showing them various photos, they couldn’t believe that it was Fiji. It’s one of our closest neighbours and yet, generally speaking, we barely know anything about how what Fiji is really like. Thousands of Australians travel to Fiji every year for holidays, spend thousands and thousands on resorts and very little goes back into the community.
Do you think art, and photography more specifically, are a means for change in the world?
It’s quite a tricky question, but I definitely think that photography and other visual arts can have a great impact on the world. Just look at photographs like the execution a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon by Eddie Adams. It’s incredibly recognisable and is even attributed to changing the war.
That’s not to say that spending two and a half weeks with a family is anything near the same level as the Vietnam war, but if these pictures help just one person or one family, then that is inspiring. Art and photography can help, change and influence the world for the better.
What are the specific goals for the project?
The main goal for the project is to build the Evisisi family a home, but to achieve this goal we need to meet a few other goals.
- Raise enough funds to print 500 books
- Print and sell the 500 books
- Install rainwater tanks and a septic tank
- Begin building the house
- Complete the house
All that while maintaining a good relationship with the family and their community. It’s an incredibly daunting task and isn’t possible without support. There are a bunch of people helping with all the behind the scenes and logistics to make this possible, as well as the great community which the project rests on. If people don’t believe in it enough, we won’t be able to raise the funds for the book or the house.
How can Lip readers help?
Send a personal email to one friend who you think will appreciate the project and send them the link. If everyone who has supported just got one friend to support as well, we’d reach our goal!
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