Saturday, May 22, 2010

Teenager, Dorze Community, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

She can be from anywhere, yet she is from Ethiopia.

She seems out of place here, yet she is from the Lower Omo Valley.

Her features are universal, yet she is from Africa.

She embraces all of the above and is limited by none of the above at the same time. She is a stranger to me yet she smiles as if she has known me in another life.

She photographs in one outfit and then changes into another for her second portrait an hour later.

In both instances she is perfect, listens to our requests and translates them into movements and expressions, all with ease and kindness. We ask her to look right, to look left, to raise her head, to smile and in every single instance she bends to our requests while retaining her spirit, her beauty, her strength and her fragility.

While everyone around us watches, they see another side of the girl familiar to them. She shows them as well as us who she really is, who she wants to be. We finish the photography on top of a hill and head down to rest in a local lodge.

Everyone follows us and we exchange words in the courtyard. The feeling is friendly, the mood kind. They hear my words through an interpreter; they hear that they are part of my photographic family now, that their brothers and sisters from around the world will see their faces, will hear their stories.

Few want to leave but need to do so as the sun is setting. We go to sleep rested and wake up the next day to photograph the same faces before moving onto the next community.