As I indicated in an earlier post on The Travel Photographer blog, Diego Vergés is back from his 4 months trip to Indonesia (and PNG) and its various islands, and is currently working feverishly on his inventory of images.
He tells me that he has so far edited and readied only one of his expected 8 or more photo essays on the various indigenous groups of Indonesia, and that's the gallery on the Mentawai. The images are spectacular, and I encourage you to view them as they provide a window into a culture which I suspect will soon vanish.
You'll notice Diego's characteristic lighting techniques from the above photographs, and which he told he learned from The Strobist. Photographing the Mentawai, he used off camera lighting, a reflector and a softbox. For cameras, Diego uses a Canon 5d and a 5d Mark II, with prime lenses (24mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.4).
The Mentawai are the native people of the Mentawai Islands, which is a chain of about seventy islands and islets off the western coast of Sumatra. They live a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the coastal and rain forest environments of the islands, and number about 64,000. They are known by their deep spirituality, body art and the tradition of sharpening their teeth for beautifying reasons.
The Mentawai practice traditional animism, and as with other indigenous cultures, are threatened by encroaching modernism.