Monday, 4 February 2008

Sunday Times Magazine: Mirella Ricciardi

Image © Mirella Ricciardi-All Rights Reserved

This week, The Sunday Times Magazine warmed this travel photographer's heart by featuring 10 magnificent black & white photographs of Africa by Mirella Ricciardi. The feature, Untouched Africa, showcases these photographs which are part of an exhibit of Ms Ricciardi's platinum prints at the Michael Hoppen gallery in London (February 22 to April 5, 2008).

It appears that the photographs had lain in a box in a family cellar for 40 years, and have now surfaced showing tribal life uncorrupted by the 20th century. Photographs of women of the Turkana tribe in Kenya, of Masai warriors, and women of the Rendille and Boran tribes will be shown at what promises to be a spectacular exhibit.

Having no idea who was this wonderful photographer, i discovered that Mirella Ricciardi is one of the giants of African tribal photography. Forty years ago, she traveled through Kenya and Sudan to photograph some of the unspoilt tribes of Africa and returned with a unique collection of instinctive photographs that appeared in her book Vanishing Africa in 1971, which eventually became an international bestseller.

She drove around Kenya in a second hand Toyota land cruiser, and spent two years instinctively capturing the simple rhythms of life and death, the joy, ceremony and beauty of African people.

A reviewer wrote that Mirella was "fuelled by an insatiable curiosity and by a hunter's thirst for images, she traversed the length and breadth of the African continent. She has traveled on foot and in canoes, on local buses and in Landrovers, in single-engine light aircraft, in hot air balloons and on the backs of camels and elephants in search of the images and the adventures that have shaped the life and work of this unique photographer.

The BBC website also informs us "that when she was in her 60s, photographer Mirella Ricciardi was dropped by light aircraft into the Amazon jungle armed only with her camera. Despite not speaking any local languages, she was able to gain the trust of three different Amazon tribes, the Kampa, the Maruba and the Yanomami and the photographs she took of them give an intimate insight into their daily life, ceremonial preparations and family duties."

This issue of The Sunday Times is certainly a keeper!