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Portraits from the Omo Valley

When you decide to become a professional photographer there is one absolute guarantee. You are in for a hell of a ride! There will be things you do that make you scratch your head and think “Really? They don’t like my work? I thought these were some of the nicest photos I’ve taken!” and then other times the popularity of your work will come out of the blue and completely surprise you!

Before I went to the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia this year I did so much research about what it was like, what the nature and customs of each individual tribe I would meet are, how far were the different groups from each other, who fought with who or who got along with who, what languages they speak – everything. I was travelling with a solo client (now friend) in the region for over two weeks. We had the time of our lives enjoying these people and taking so many portraits that we are both still reeling, almost six weeks after our return.

What surprised me more than anything from this journey to Ethiopia was the sudden and intense international in the photographs that I shot there.

The Times UK

Within a week of returning from Ethiopia, I was approached by a national newspaper here in the UK, The Times, about featuring one of my portraits from the Suri tribe. I have never asked how they actually found me. I just received an email out of the blue from their picture desk hoping to use one of my images of a beautiful Suri girl we met early in our trip.

It was quite something to wake up and find that your work was suddenly published to an audience of almost half a million people here in the UK. I was on my way to London when I heard the news and I almost spilled my coffee!

Atlas of Humanity

Last year I was blessed to become one of the official photographers of India for the incredible Atlas of Humanity project. The Atlas of Humanity is contributed to by some of the finest people photographers in the world. They initially took an interest in my work with the residents of the former artist’s colony of Kathputli in Delhi. You can read the full story here .

In April this year they are holding an exhibition in the beautiful town of Desenzano del Garda, at the southern edge of Lake Garda in northern Italy. My work from Kathputli will be exhibited there but when the organisers found out that I could come over for the opening of the exhibition, they included two of the shots from Ethiopia.

Portrait of Bariti, an Arbore girl from Lake Chew Bahir in the great Rift Valley of southern Ethiopia
Portrait of Koro, a Tsemay girl from the market town of Key Afer in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia

These two images will be shown in Italy and the portrait of Koro, plus another image of mine from Kathputli will feature in a book of the exhibition.

The Atlas of Humanity have also generously shared my work with the Toubou people of Chad in their social media.

I am heading over to Italy this weekend for the opening. It is my first ever international (collaborative) exhibition and I feel really honoured to be included with such an esteemed group of people photographers from around the world!

Africa Geographic

In 2017 my work with the Priests of Lalibela in Ethiopia featured in the yearbook of Africa Geographic, which highlights the best images taken across the African continent each year. Fast forward to this year and my photo of a little Suri boy named Babuku has been shortlisted in this year’s competition. Fingers crossed it makes this year’s Year Book also!

Babuku! A young Suri boy in the Omo Valley

Instagram

Isn’t social media a double-edged sword? On the one hand it drives me mad, and on the other it brings me constant joy.

Perhaps one of the most amusing things that has happened since I started to post my work from Ethiopia is the number of bans I’ve had for showing the bare breasts of African women (and even one old man!) to the public!

This, at a time when the video of the massacre in Christchurch went viral and didn’t seem to have the same control!

My work from Ethiopia has been shared by some amazing people and pages since I returned.

Bariti

Bariti – her image has been shared by Malian pop singer Inna Modja ( @innamodjaofficiel ) where her 141,000 followers chose to like this image 4230 times! Jewellery designer Jewels By Lisa Lucy ( @mzle_le )also shared this image to her 27,100 fans who liked it 4206 times. The wonderful team at African Portraits ( @african_portraits ) published this image to their 136,000 followers who liked it 14,468 times. She is also featured in New Photosworld ( @new_photosworld ).

Babuku

Babuku was featured on the lovely site of Eyes Of Children Around the World ( @eyesofchildrenaroundtheworld ) whose 58,500 or so followers liked his image over a thousand times.

Adi. Her image is currently featured in African news and media page of Pin Africa ( @pin_africa ) whose 12,000 plus followers are currently enjoying her incredible beauty!

The hands of two Nyangatom women walking in friendship and the portrait of a young Suri girl with her Poinciana flowers was shared by the site World Colours People ( @worldcolours_people ) with their 9000 or so fans.

Suri girl with her baby sister

This image was shared by Marinella Secci ( @marinellasecci_africansoul ) who is just obsessed with African people and she shared it to her 13000 or so fans.

The two images of this stunning Suri girl are currently featured on the site Sinistar22 ( @sinistar22 ), a community of over 50,000 Afro-Caribbean people living in London!

Private Buyers

One of the greatest honours anyone can bestow upon me is to choose to live alongside my work in their homes every day. The following three images are now proudly on display in homes in the United Kingdom and Australia.

What A Journey!!!

All of this unexpected publicity has been revelatory for me. I’ve only been back for around six weeks (and I have since been to Ghana!) . I am leading the 2020 trip to the Omo Valley for my company Wild Images . If you would like me to introduce you to some of the most beautiful people in Africa please leave a comment below or contact me through my site contact form.

2 thoughts on “Portraits from the Omo Valley

  1. Carl Clifford says:

    Inger, you are just receiving the attention you deserve as an Artist and craftsperson. I say craftsperson, because you take reflected light and weave it into amazing images. You make me want to take my photo gear and flog off most of it, just keeping tha Box Brownie level necessities, though these days, that would be my iPhone, though I might keep my little Leica.

    • inger says:

      LOL! Thanks Carl! There is nothing wrong with an iPhone for photos! At the end of the day, you are a photographer because of the way you see things over what sort of gear in your hand! Keep shooting! 🙂

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