Pacific Islands

Going Solar in the Kingdom of Tonga






As far as escaping the icy cold beginnings of winter go, Tonga was a destination well equipped with sea and sun and touching down on earthy tarmac amongst coconut trees I could see how my three weeks were going to pass by quickly. What led me to be in Tonga was the making of a documentary film with an independent production team from Dunedin. We were to document a sustainable development project led by a team of New Zealand engineers which would in theory disseminate ideas on the benefits solar energy and help relieve some financial pressure from schools- a piece of the larger puzzle which aims to decrease reliability on imported fossil-fuel generation in Tonga.

Approaching this opportunity as a photographer, I was enthusiastic to not only shoot stills, but also test the waters in moving image some more. This was pivotal in terms of valuable lessons learnt surrounding the neutrality and distance required for documentary filmmaking, plus collecting a range of skills to add to my technical toolkit.

At times bureaucracy eclipsed the values that underpin a sustainable development project, though in retrospect this serves as a reminder of the ever-changing nature of making art within a commercial context. A little bit of a challenge keeps things interesting and often shifts the course of a creative project to a place which affords more depth.

This was certainly an adventure I will never forget. I got to sample many interesting foods, attend a Royal Ball, party on a boat at night, visit a Coffee Plantation and cruise round on the back of trucks. Some of the best days I had were spent wandering Nuku’alofa talking to kids, and the locals welcomed us with prevalent generosity.

I made some great friendships and saw many strange and beautiful things in a place which was filled with warmth and an ease of pace. The photographs you see here are some of the little fragments, short stories, which punctuated my time working on the primary film project.


  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Awesome pics Emily! Sooo jealous!

  • Reply
    July 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Wonderful photos Emily – I especially loved the black and white ones of the children. Well done my beautiful g’ daughter! xxxxx

  • Reply
    Richard and Kate Hlavac
    July 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Emily, we didn’t realise you had gone! Really enjoying the photos, you have such a gift 🙂

    • Reply
      October 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

      Thanks K&R! It was an epic journey. hopefully get to tell you all about it in person sometime soon x

  • Reply
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