Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mursi Man, AK-47, Mago National Park, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

So many men walking around with guns. Everywhere we visit, such is the scene.

Even more surreal is their reaction to my direction. This man for instance poses as directed: turn to the left, turn to the right, point the gun at the camera. He responds calmly, like a man being photographed with his prized possession, all the while with his finger behind the trigger.

It is such moments that give my connection to strangers even more significance. Over and over again, people that have never met me show me a respect and dignity perhaps only earned over a lifetime between the closest of friends.

This confluence never ceases to surprise me. One such convergence happens tonight, when a sweet soul from the West Coast named Jessica decides to send a note. After seeing an image from Ethiopia, she shares her thoughts with me as naturally as she might with a dear friend.

She reaffirms my trust in the everday and in the power of the image: 'It seems that the people closest to you know you the least until they look and try to understand what it is you love to do.'

This happens on location in Ethiopia and happens between two people meeting through the photographic medium. By seeing the portraits, Jessica sees the subjects as well as the photographer. By reading their stories, she remembers her past.

In her words: 'I visited Togo, Africa for two weeks around a year ago to help build a school in a small village and since then my idea of beauty has extended past American ideals. In addition to the way that you evoke emotion throughout your portfolio, a large part of why I am so inspired by your work is because I have heard the stories of people from many places and you capture their stories in your art.'

When requesting her permission to include the above words, Jessica responds with trust, with kindness. The people in my images will one day be proud to know her, to have their portraits next to one of her in my portfolio.

As for the man above, it seems that the expense of the bullets keeps him and his friends from using the gun very much. This helps put me at ease as he points the gun at the camera. The Mursi Community, as noted in an earlier post, shows us only respect and kindness, coupled with a sense of humor as seen above in the man's smile.