Thursday, 14 December 2017

Omo Valley's 'Circus'

I was in Ethiopia's Omo Valley in 2004, and photographed many of the tribes in that area such as the Hamer, Mursi, and the their villages and at their markets. At that time, the local guides negotiated with the tribes and their village leaders a modest monetary compensation so we could photograph them in their environment as they went about their daily lives.

However, I was already sensing that this would soon explode into a veritable industry, which would progressively evolve into a 'circus' of sorts, altering the authenticity of the tribes' lifestyle, traditions and relationship with the tourists and photographers.

I was right. Over the course of the intervening 10-12 years I viewed that very circus through images made by travel photographers who had gone to the Omo Valley. These images proved how the tribes authentic adornments had morphed into becoming accessories for fashion shoots that would satisfy the most inventive fashionistas. 

Since early morning, the women and children of the Omo Valley villages begin their make-up sessions, and prepare wild accessories...often with the help and direction of photographers, and the villages are transformed into fashion studios.

The short trailer is produced by Jean Queyrat; a French videographer...and featured by the French Natural History Museum.

The question is: who is being duped? The photographers, the tribes or the viewers?