While in Ethiopia photographing women for the Full Women Project, I traveled to the Omo Valley. On this day, we had spent hours off the beaten track, looking for a wedding we'd heard about, where I could photograph the women involved. We stopped on the road many times for directions until finally, after hours, the bumpy road was too much for us, we got lost and decided to turn around and go back to Turmi. As we were turning around, our local guide decided to approach one more person, to see if they knew where the wedding was. It turned out to be a very gracious family, who invited us into their home and made us coffee. They told us, I was the first white person ever to enter their home. They were very curious about me and my team. After my local guide explained who I was and why I was in the Omo, the matriarch of the family gave me permission to make as many photos as I wanted. Making or taking photos in the Omo has become like stalking prey since tourism has been on the rise. Tribal people on the main road and in the villages are even hostile when doing business with photographers, understandably tired of being the objects of well meaning (mostly) tourists who often only see them as exotic. A person is strange, no matter if we meet them in our own home towns, until we get to know them. That's normal. Once we get to known each other, even though we may disagree, at core we are all just people, doing our best to live life on this planet. We love and care for our children, feed ourselves to the best of our abilities, are curious about "strangers," want to connect and learn, and make friends, and set up our relationships between genders and generations within the norms of whatever tribe or group we're in! We're all subject to decisions made for us by powerful governments, who put profits before people (the tribes of the Omo being mortally vulnerable to this). We develop spiritual and religious beliefs that codify behaviors and morals. But at the most simple, we are human beings and want to connect with our fellow human beings.
In this relationship, there was a money exchange between us. But more importantly, there was a true exchange of warmth, play, creativity, nourishment, and the beginnings of understanding each other. Plus an openness for more relationship over time. What more could we have asked for.
Many thanks to Yeshi Riske and Michael Endashaw for taking such good care of me while I was in their care.And to Nancy N and Carrie R, Philip and of course, Eric, for everything that made it happen.
The footage here was shot by myself and my local guide in the Omo Valley, in Ethiopia.