Saturday, September 11, 2010

Karo Man, Headrest, Paint, Feather, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, March, 2010

On the eve of this image, we camp an hour away from this village. The hour can be attributed to the fact that a road is lacking. A rough path is what guides us to this man's home.

He belongs to the Karo Community and lives on the east bank of the Omo River. With a population ranging between 1,000 to 1,500, the survive growing sorghum, beans and maize. They are well-known for beautifying themselves with chalk, charcoal and other materials.

The women in this community produce scars on their body in order to augment this beautification process while the men do the same thing but for a different reason, the killing of an enemy or a dangerous animal. The women also prepare their hair with a mixture of clay and organic material, giving it a most beautiful appearance.

This man carries a headrest, one that he uses when lying down so as to keep his head from touching the ground. This headrest also doubles as a small chair.

We arrive on this hot day after camping out nearby. After this morning, my friends decide that seven days without a meal for me is enough and decide to take me to a hospital four hours away. Before the drive however, we make magnificent portraits, both in color and in black and white. Due to a physical weakness this morning, the truck is parked right behind me, protecting me from the sun. A seat is also provided for me to sit upon, allowing me to manage the still and video cameras with ease and without exhaustion.

The portrait above is a still from the video camera.

We have a short discussion with the men and begin the photography after agreeing on a price for the portraits. In the Lower Omo Valley, negotiations are always necessary and a price is to be fixed prior to the photography. This community, like the rest, are used to tourists and requires an amount for each portrait, as well as an entrance fee for their village.

They are unsure of my work since it requires a dozen exposures for each person at times. We agree that a higher price is to be paid in exchange for the possibility that more is needed by me. We advise them that, for most, the payment will actually be higher. This is the balance that is struck.

We photograph the men first, followed by the elders and then the younger men. In this village, the children seem missing and we walk away without any younger portraits. We drive to the next location, four hours away and with the thought that a good doctor will be waiting on the other end of this drive to improve my condition for the remainder of my time in Ethiopia.