Have you ever dreamt of taking a break from a stressful urban life and immerse yourself in the local culture of a tropical island? Photographer Sarah Witt's (@wittsarah.photos) sister dared to do so, and soon enough Sarah went to check up on her. She found her sister blooming in her new life on a little paradise on earth: a small Filipino island called Siargao, located in the North Surigao province, in the southeast of the country. Nicknamed the surf capital of the Philippines, Siargao is known among enthusiasts for its famous wave Cloud 9 and its annual surfing competition. But this verdant gem has everything to seduce the wanderer. Despite growing national and international attention, Siargao remains spared by mass tourism. Sarah’s pictures take us through an almost untouched nature.
A dense forest of radiant green palm trees full of coconuts, intense turquoise waters, thin white sand beaches... one can easily feel the vibrant colours of this tropical garden through the textured black and white of Sarah’s photographs. The children’s laughs, the roll of the waves, the rustle of the palm leaves in the humid heat... it's a timeless sensation of a land that evokes a slow way of life and the importance of preserving nature.
A constant character of Sarah’s vision is the sea that surrounds the island. Local fishermen, surfers and kids from a very young age make one with this body of water. Sarah captured this interaction shooting directly from the waves, thanks to her precious Nikonos III. This waterproof analog camera was invented by the famous Captain Cousteau for his submarine expeditions, and allowed her to portray the aquatic scenery and its human inhabitants without any obstacles.
The river Maasin, finding its way into the lush vegetation, creates an outstanding landscape as well. It is also a playground where joyful adventurers can swing by a rope attached to a leaning tree over the river, and jump into the refreshing water.
Scooters are the preferred vehicles to roam around the island with a surfboard strapped to the side. There are very few cars, farmers can also be seen riding buffaloes. One day is enough to drive around the whole island, but it is also enough to fall in love with it and think of ways to stay there forever.
Sarah visited Siargao on two occasions, and each time felt warmly welcomed by her sister’s new local friends and community, as well as all the Filipinos she met daily. This series of images was taken on a special date, January 1, 2020 which was also Sarah’s very last day on the island, she felt that these photographs "were really coming from the heart". She had the chance to share this public holiday with families who got together on the beach of Talisay. The whole day was spent sharing food, enjoying the beauty of the place, being with each other and celebrating the beginning of a new chapter.
Sarah’s sister also came back to France eventually, refuelled with energy, with a new perspective. It is what travel does to our souls. A hint of nostalgia, the dream of coming back soon, diving in memories, reminiscing the iodic smell of the wind, the heat on the skin, the softness of the sand, almost feeling salty drops splashing on your face...
Sarah is a French self-taught photographer who has always shot in analog. She uses mostly expired film rolls, to obtain this special touch and grain. She usually shoots in black and white, and develops her film herself, to control the process of her creation from beginning to end. She is represented by Poltred Gallery. She is currently exhibiting her series The Wave in Lyon and Biarritz, France, until September 5th, 2020.