Since I’d wanted to come to Namibia for a while, I’d seen images and read about the Himba people located in the north of the country. I’ve always found their aesthetic to be quite beautiful, with ornate decorations and the red skin tint for the women. It is a society that has for some villages adapted itself to modern luxuries, such as supermarkets and health care. Some villages remain fairly remote and have much less contact with the rest of civilization.
An aspect I always liked reading about is how the women are praised highly in their communities, as they are the ones who keep mankind alive. Of course, men and women are necessary, but it is recognized that the women carries many more burdens than the men in creating a child.
This was an interesting learning experience as I already had a good idea of how I wanted to photograph them. I normally prefer environmental portraits, but I’ve already seen it done (amazingly well, Joey Lawrence and Jimmy Nelson come to mind) and wanted to try something a bit different. I met someone in Opuwo who speaks their language and would take me to their villages. The first one we went to was thirty minutes outside of Opuwo and I could tell from their lack of enthusiasm they were very used to having westerners come and take pictures. It was very disappointing and I had to ask if there are any other villages that are further away. We then went to Epupa Falls on the border to Angola, 200km away from the town and much more remote, but even there, I could see that foreigners regularly came to photograph the people, and it didn’t feel very special to me either.
Finally I had to push my guy and asked if there are any villages where no westerners visit. He said he knew an area. So we loaded up his 1975 Land Rover and hauled for hours across rugged terrain to get to a village where apparently only about one white person goes per year. I felt a much much better connection in this last village as the people were interested in me as well, rather than just having a photo taken because they know they need to. I obviously couldn’t speak their language but I felt like it was finally a very good exchange between my subjects and me. Even at night as I was going to go to sleep, I heard some of the young girls singing and clapping their hands under the full moon, I went and found them having their own dance party, which gathered another thirty or so people and we all stayed up late having fun in the cool night.