Explorer Wade Davis on Vanishing Cultures

There’s a tendency for those of us in the dominant Western culture to view traditional people—even when we’re sympathetic to their plight—as quaint and colorful, but reduced to the sidelines of history, while the real world, which of course is our world, continues moving forward. We see these societies as failed attempts at modernity, as if they’re destined to fade away by some natural law, as if they can’t cope with change. That’s simply not true. Change is the one constant in history. All societies in all times and in all places constantly adapt to new possibilities for life.”
Wade Davis

The Suri Tribe in the Omo Valley

The Suri Tribe in the Omo Valley





Cattle Camps of the Omo

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Home printing my images from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. Preparing for my trip to Texas-to present my work to museum curators, galleries and collectors from all over the world, along with photographers from all over the world, at Houston’s Fotofest Biennial. 16 reviews in 4 days… whew…

Now working on the images from a visit to a cattle camp. This is where the men go to take care of the cattle; a very prestigious job. Cattle are enormously important to the Suri. They don’t see cattle simply as material assets but as life-long, sustaining companions. The average male in the Suri tribe owns from 30 to 40 cows. Men are not allowed to marry until they own a substantial number of cows. Then the cows are given to the bride’s family after the wedding ceremony. They are used for trading, and as a source of milk and blood, they are treated very well and rarely killed.
The men and boys in the camp work all day with their cattle and then they dance by the fires at night after covering their bodies with ash.

Into The Mists Of Time

Happy to be featured on my friend Tewfic El-Sawy’s informative and inspiring blog, The Travel Photographer.


Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 5.05.03 PM

Into the Mists of Time - Terri Gold

Into the Mists of Time – Terri Gold

Terri Gold is an award-winning photographer and artist based in New York City, and has built an impressive reputation for her infrared imagery of rituals, rites of passage, festivals, celebrations and portraits from all over the world.

Her artistic creativity and energy were patently obvious during my Tribes of South Rajasthan & Kutch Photo~Expedition™which she had joined in January 2010, as she moved from one photo shoot in a village to the next photographing with her two cameras; one “normal” like those used by the rest of us, and the second professionally modified to shoot infrared.

She has recently returned from the endangered Omo Valley with new work…both infrared imagery and standard, and uploaded her best work using the former technique on the gallery she titled Into The Mists of Time: In the Omo Valley. The images are really distinctive, and more fine art than travel documentary photographs as such, with the majority being set up for an aesthetic impact…or fine art imagery, if you prefer.

The Omo Valley of Ethiopia is home to eight different tribes numbering around 200,000 people in total, and their traditional way of life and culture are threatened by the Ethiopian government introducing and planning large infrastructure projects to the area, and while these will provide better medical and educational facilities, trading and many associated benefits to the tribes, there are also governmental programs aimed at forcibly resettling them.

Some conscientious travel companies have recently ceased to bring loads of tourists to the Omo Valley in an effort to pressure the Ethiopian government to cease these resettling programs. Perhaps that will also slow down the exploitation of these tribes by some tourists who view them as beautiful displays.

Terri Gold’s work has been described as “interpretive in nature and incorporates the use of infrared light and the invisible light spectrum.” I’m not sure how Terri photographs these days, but at one point of time she would wear up to four cameras around her neck; a digital camera, a digital camera converted to infrared, a XPan with cross-processed film (or B&W), and a Mamiya 7.

-Tewfic El-Sawy

Into The Mists Of Time – In The Omo Valley

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Traveling through the mists of time to the Omo Valley in Ethiopia

just home – an adventure beyond words and worlds

so many tales to tell and photos

just beginning to work with them

 on the go every day

up at 5 am  to catch the beautiful dawn in the tribal villages

amazing skies every day

cascading clouds blue skies

afternoon thunder rumbling

short rain and then sometimes a rainbow

the people and customs and cultural diversity astounding

 mankind may have begun here

though this may be the endgame

the Turkish are clearing the forests and planting cotton fields

the Chinese government is building a massive dam project and the flood plain agriculture practiced here for all time

will soon end

we talk with the local guides

the people know  to varying degrees that their life will be changing very soon

they would prefer to be left alone and untill recently 

 lived on the barter system

but now they  pose for us 

and ask for money for each picture

we feel like human Atms

and they feel 

like they have reluctantly joined this game

I mean we show up at their homes and villages

(I wonder sometimes should we even be here)

and they might as well make what they can from it 

it sets up a strange dynamic 

that is hard to pierce

but if one takes the time

and spends some time in a village

and puts down their camera

and takes part in some of the rituals

It is possible to connect and hear each other

and say I want to tell your stories

I hope there is a way to move forward

for tribal life to progress

to have better health care and schools and clean water

new income streams and some  economic potential

with out obliterating  tribal traditions

and  I wonder what’s next…

I think of how many times in history this story has been played out by native populations

trying to save their way of life…


Leaving for The Omo Valley in Ethiopia

These last days before leaving  are always the hardest.  A mix between organizing my art, business and life at home, trying to make my bags lighter and focusing on my goals for the trip – how to go deeper – to see with feeling. I have been re reading”The Art of Pilgrimage”, a book I always look at before I leave .

I came across these thoughts and I am printing them to read each morning as a good way to begin the day…

Excellent Practices Of Pilgrimages

Practice the arts of attention and listening.

Practice renewing yourself everyday.

Practice meandering towards the center of every place.