Monday, July 05, 2010

The Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Stunning images from the Omo Valley of Ethiopia by Eric Lafforgue here. His North Korea set is incredible too..


Anonymous,  10:59 am  

noleauI have had enough of photographers taking pictures of fellow humans in the name of art. The photographed are not some odd, alien species or specimen to be admired. That is who they are! yes it may be fascinating to the photographer. Would you all like me to take photos oy you and post it on the net? What is it about us humans that makes us see fellow humans as objects of art? Especially, when they are "ethnics" from central asia, the pacific islands, yemen or afrikkkkkahhh. Better stop ranting, i'm off to buy a camera and will start taking pics of these bloody travelers and posy=t them on the net as interesting forms of humans.....hmmmm...

jj,  5:33 pm  

I second the first Anon.

These are some of the images that help perpetuate the whole continent as an exotic "country". Do you have a background in anthropology? I think so...

Jeremy 5:50 pm  

Interesting first two comments.

There is a complex reaction when we (I'll leave the question of who 'we' are open for now) see what we take to be National Geographic style images of what 'we' consider to be the exotic (in this case, the image was taken by a freelancer whose images get into the NG).

From another perspective, these are just humans on another part of the planet. We may have a lot to learn from them: their stories, their cultural/spiritual world, the way they relate to the planet.

Sometimes I wonder whether the claim of exoticism isn't simply our own problem, not theirs, and also wonder whether it was transference. I would say, there's nothing to be ashamed of. What if we did away with the idea of these images being of backward, pre-modern people, and saw them as images of other worlds, of equal value to our own?

More generally, I don't see why there should be a taboo on any kind of photography. Images are forms of story; why would we want to proscribe them?

You'll notice if you dig around that the same photographer has taken an equally amazing series of photographs of North Korea. Should we also consider these to be exotic images, and prefer that either a) the images were at least taken by a North Korean or b) they didn't exist at all.

Finally (to the first anonymous), if one thinks that photographic images should only be taken by someone of the same race/nationality/ethnicity/tribe (etc), then would you feel more comfortable if that rule were applied universally?

Anonymous,  6:50 pm  

I am first anon, and it is neither an issue of taboos or dictating. Jeremy, you would notice that i carefully avoided race or tribe,as it could be an African-American taking photos of fellow African-Americans living in some "projects" or ghetto. The issue is why some of us see others as objects of art to be photographed, the perception is of being less human. Fascinating, but not quite like us is the impression one gets. Is there not a power thing going on here? Would you dare approach an Emir or the Afghan president to take photos, because he looks fascinating in his garb? I think not. Not the same for the dude from the projects or some pacific islander with no clothes on but a gourd housing his willy. Ah well, I guess its called art.

Jeremy 7:37 pm  

First anonymous, "The issue is why some of us see others as objects of art to be photographed, the perception is of being less human."

I think this is the baggage we bring to the table. No one but you is framing these images as art. They can just as easily framed as images of humans from a certain cultural-world. They are no more exotic than certain sub-cultural species that inhabitant London or New York really.

My point is, when it comes to photography, nothing should be off limits. The question of how images get framed is entirely up to us..

Jessika Kaydia Hamilton 7:13 pm  

I can't believe how silly it is to say that this person is NOT a piece of art. I happen to have a background in Anthropology with a keen interest in the Omo River Valley and the Sub-continuant, so I know that this scarification is specifically meant to make the wearer into art (it is not exclusively used to identify clan/tribe/family). Also, just as with the Maasai, Tribesmen like the Surma, Mursi and so on charge tourists for taking pictures. They consider themselves to be some of the most beautiful people in the world, and there fore think it fair to be paid for photographs.
In the end, to paraphrase Fraud, sometimes a picture is just a picture. People who hate images of people as art will have a hard time walking past magazine racks or art Museums. I understand from a religious perspective where such indignation might come from as some faiths render the human form as an image idolatry and there by a taboo, but otherwise not so much.
Ah well, to each their own soap box.
But actually, I have to add that because the Omo River is about to be damned up and the tribes in that area will be forced into extinction/assimilation, I find the documentation of these people to be vital. You are looking at people who have lived the same way and used the same aesthetic vocabulary since the rise of the Holy Roman Empire and the world will loose that within just a lifetime or two of right now. So, sure, some people may call it exploitive, but I rather see it on trading cards in bubblegum than loose it forever.

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