Intimate Portraits From Afar #1 – Black and White Photography From The Ethiopian Outback
by John Downey
A few of us spent the weekend just north of Awash National Park and just inside the southern border of the Afar region in northeastern Ethiopia. The Afar are traditional nomadic pastoralists who, during the dry season (current), pitch camp on the banks of the Awash River, where we made tents this visit. Goats, sheep, cattle aside, they maintain large numbers of camels, used primarily for transportation between beddown moves. At the start of the rainy season (Oct-Nov), they depart riversides to higher grounds, avoiding flooding and an onslaught of mosquitoes.
This was my first encounter with the Afar. Otherwise famous for aggressively defending lands and herds against other regional tribes, I found these villagers quietly confident. Unexpectedly, one teen boy almost took out my 50mm with his staff but other than that, from tribal elder to preschooler, they let us photograph them without issue. These Afar were likely not as agressive as other tribes because tourism hasn’t spoiled the experience. Rather, warthog, guinea-fowl, dik-dik and other fauna attract hunters from across the globe and villagers usually support as guides than anthropological models. Photography is but an afterthought. This post will be the first in a series of Afar portraits and I’ll be uploading more during the week.