Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Power of Photography

Konso tribe village of Busso at the edge of the Omo region of Ethiopia.

Village woman holding print of photo I had taken 6 years ago.

Son holding photo of his deceased father I had taken in 2001. When he first saw the print, he cried.

This has to do with another project I'm working on.

Last year I returned to Africa for the fifth time to complete a personal project I call Africa’s Undiscovered Myths where I interview the chiefs, shamans, storytellers, witch doctors and elders of Africa’s most remote tribes about their myths and archetypal dreams. I’m the only person to ever record these oral stories. Then I create photo illustrations of those myths and dreams.

While the work is very satisfying, it’s the human interaction that moves me most.

For example, when I returned to my favorite Konso village of Busso on the edge of Ethiopia’s Omo region I was surprised at the number of tourists there compared to my 2001 visit. In fact, the villagers now charged an entrance fee and a per-click fee for taking photos of any people.

While the chief and elders remembered me and heartedly approved the myth work I showed them, I was most touched by the reaction to the photographic prints of images I had taken during the previous trip. When the mother who I had photographed holding her infant in 2001 saw her photograph, she ran to get her 6-year-old to proudly show me. When I handed a print of an old man I had photographed on the previous trip to his son he openly cried. The old man had died. I had just given him the only tangible thing he had to remember his father.

They actually made me feel like a hero. After taking a group photo of the whole village, they gave me the equivalent of a gold key. I could take photographs anywhere and of anyone, no charge. The Power of Photography.

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