United Kingdom –
Empire is a fascinating journey across the South Atlantic exploring life on four remote islands – the British Overseas Territories of Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands and St. Helena – relics of the once formidable British Empire, all intertwined through their shared history.
Photography feature – Jon Tonks spent up to a month at a time in each territory, travelling 60,000 miles around the Atlantic via military outposts, low-lit airstrips and a long voyage aboard the last working Royal Mail Ship. Some 400 rolls of film, 24 flights and 32 days at sea later, the resulting work creates an insight into these distant places that resonate with a sense of Britishness which is remarkably recognisable yet inescapably strange.
FALKLAND ISLANDS – NOVEMBER, 2011: A Gather of Sheep standing under a Union Jack Flag, Long Island Farm, November 2011, Falkland Islands. Farmland on the Falkland Islands extends to well over one million hectares, and is home to approximately 600,000 sheep. The value of wool has fluctuated in recent decades, but in 2012 was considered high. Each family has a short window of time in which to shear their entire flock, up to 10,000 head of sheep. (Photo by Jon Tonks/Reportage by Getty Images)
Tonks has photographed the people, the landscapes and the traces of the past embedded within each territory and through his photographs and short texts, which combine history and anecdote, he tells the story of these remote and remarkable islands. His motivation is neither political or nostalgic, the images arising primarily from his curiosity about the lives of these distant lands that remain very firmly British.
“This tour of remaining British territories, many of which are godforsaken outposts in the Atlantic, is a wonderful study of island life. A mixture of portraits and landscapes, together with the stories associated with the scenes, provide both an entertaining and rather melancholy take.” – Martin Parr