Culture - NOMINEE: Robin Yong
Flowers of Ethiopia
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The Surma tribe of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia...a place where mankind probably began. The children and teens appear innocent and beautiful, with their ornate body paint work and exotic head decorations made of flowers. The place appears peaceful and untouched, but in reality, life here is harsh with the tribespeople at frequent wars with neighbouring tribes over cattle grazing rights. The line between peace and war is very fine and very blurred. They can be so near to each other, yet at times appear so far from each other...
The photos were done in March 2016, at a place called Kibish in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia, very close to the border of South Sudan. I have previously seen photos of the Surma tribe and am totally blown away by their sense of fashion and raw beauty. I wanted to glamourise this original fashion of mankind. I wanted the pictures to appear like glamour shots, but to also respect the tribes, hence the photos are taken with just two other tribe members behind holding up a black scarf so that the background will appear dark. No flash, reflectors or additional lighting is used because the tribespeople are terrified of these. They believe that each time a flash goes off, blood energy is being sucked out of their bodies.
Travel to this area is not easy. We had to drive for four days from the city called Arba Minch. Roads were not great and the drive is only possible during the dry season.
I am a new travel photographer. I spend most of my time in Australia and Singapore, with frequent travels to Cambodia, Japan, France and Italy. I particularly like to do portraits, especially people in traditional costumes. Every opportunity that I go out and shoot pictures, I try to learn something new.