Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Diego Verges/Javier Fernandez del Rivero: Addis

Photo © Diego Verges/Javier Fernandez-All Rights Reserved
Diego Verges was at it again...this time with a friend and collaborator Javier Fernandez, and produced interesting set up visuals of various Omo Valley tribes, such as the Mursi, Hamar, and Tsamay.

Here's the background story as told to me by Diego. Having won a photographic contest last November, with a trip to Ethiopia for two as grand prize, Diego and Javier traveled to Southern Ethiopia where they stayed for about 2 weeks. With time on their hands, and an impulse to produce something unusual, they decided to work with studio backgrounds cheaply cobbled together locally.

The goal was to produce photographs more akin to anthropological portraits than travel images, but that would also accentuate the studio-like poses rather than the candid.

Diego tells me he was inspired by the work of John Kenny and Sarah Elliot, who were both featured on my blog, as well as by Isabel Munoz. I also see the influence of Joey L. in these, especially in the use of strobes and lights.

Some of those who describe themselves as purists may well view this work as demeaning to the Omo Valley tribes people and their age-old culture, as well as exploitative to a certain degree. Unfortunately, this has been the case for a number of years, and I understand through a number of conversations that commercialization is now running rampant. I was there last in early 2004, and noticed how the various tribes were adept in soliciting money for images and how prepared they were to pose without any guidance from me. And that's why I qualify my use of the term "exploitative"...perhaps this is a case of what came first...the tourists with their cameras giving out a handful of birrs...or the demand for birrs from tourists for each snap. I don't know the answer to that.

While I am saddened by the economic situation these tribes find themselves in, I pass no judgement. There's always the good and the bad in situations such as these.

Whatever side of the fence you end up on, there's no question that Diego and Javier have done an excellent job in featuring the beauty and majesty of the Southern Ethiopian tribes.

And no...I don't know why Diego decided to title these new galleries as "Addis"...instead of Turmi or Omo.

Note: Diego clarified the reason the reason for choosing Addis...it means "New"...as in new work.