Hidden away in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands lies some of the world’s clearest waters and most pristine reefs.
Canoeing upon and caring for the wet wonderland is the traditional owners, the Telina tribe, whose connection to the Marovo Lagoon is so ingrained, it’s almost as though the children in the community learn to paddle before they walk.
The culture, lifestyle and captivating scenery of this archipelago, and its First Nations’ people, has been beautifully documented by Italian photographer, Pier Mane. Mane's passion for diving and the outdoors has made him an award-winning underwater photographer.
His series, Walking on Water, depicts both, under-and-above-water shots of Marovo Lagoon villagers - most prominently the children - navigating the shallows. A striking photograph he took during his 2012 visit shows two young boys canoeing over the reef, and has recently received highly-commended in this years’ Sony World Photography Awards. Mane gained access to such a remote area using the oldest operating liveaboard vessel in the Solomon Islands, Bilikiki MV. He told NITV that if it wasn't for their embedded relationship with the local tribes on the various islands, he wouldn't have been able to explore the seemingly hidden locations.
Pier Mane says that he aims to capture the essence and characteristics of each destination he visits, in a single shot.
“I’d never been diving on an island where the locals would welcome you in their canoes the moment your boat arrives. I image it’s like what happened to Spanish explorer Alvaro De Neira when he first arrived at the archipelago,” Mane told NITV.
“While I was diving, I noticed canoes above that were following my bubbles. It was the end of the day, and so here was my opportunity to capture the kids, the canoes, the reef and a stunning sunset as the backdrop. I was also near the island shore and was able to show its incredible vegetation.”
Mane says he has always had an interest in First Nations’ culture, particularly in the pacific.
“My father is a big collector of Indigenous carvings and paintings and we have a very extensive collection of Papua New Guinea tribes’ woodwork in particular. He always mentioned to me how incredible the carvings from the Solomon were, but he’s never gone,” Mane said.
As well as capturing the character of the area, Mane says that as an underwater photographer, he likes to open a dialogue ocean conservation and why it’s so important to protect our oceans in his series.
“We think of ocean conservation as safeguarding marine inhabitants and fragile ecosystems. However, in Oceania, 10+ million Pacific Islanders – for thousands of years – have lead traditional lives in full, in the ocean’s symbiosis.
"The youth don’t have fancy smart phones – instead, they have their oceans. This playground transforms to the very core of their livelihood. And isn’t saving the livelihood of our fellow children important enough reason as any to want to save our oceans?”
Many Indigenous children in these areas (as the Telina tribe shows) learn to paddle before they walk! The youth don’t have fancy smart phones – instead, they have their oceans. This playground transforms to the very core of their livelihood. And isn’t saving the livelihood of our fellow children important enough reason as any to want to save our oceans?”
All images are copyright of Pier Mane.