Sunday, January 22, 2012

Travels in Ethiopia

Whew, it's been quite a hectic and amazing three weeks since my last post. I apologize for not posting last week, but it took me a while to figure out which day it was supposed to be and when I should be sleeping (any moment I could, it turned out). I also started work at my new place last week and that was awesome and busy. Excuses aside, I'm back now and I promise that this post won't disappoint.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Ethiopia? Maybe I have, but I'll say it again: I love that country. Getting to visit places I'd never been was amazing in and of itself, but visiting those places with an amazing group of photographers that included my favorite modern photographer was mind blowing. I gained insight into making photographs that show people in the context of their surroundings and the elements that help the viewer of my images connect with what I am showing. It was truly eye-opening to the type of photography I want to do, and the photography that I'm capable of doing.

First, the group I traveled with. David duChemin, amazing world and humanitarian photographer, along with his co-leader Jeffrey Chapman guided a group of 10 photographers from around the world. We had participants from Australia, Israel, Italy, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada, and several from the U.S. We all met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa to begin our journey. From Addis we flew to Lalibela, which is in the north eastern part of the country. Lalibela is a town and holy site built by King Lalibela in the 13th century. It is widely believed that his goal in building the churches here was to recreate Jerusalem in Ethiopia. The churches and spaces around the churches are named to represent the important events written about in the Bible. Yes, the pictures are coming, I'm just trying to lay down some info to give context. It's a literary device. I think.

King Lalibela decided that the way to represent Jerusalem was to carve a series of churches, not only from the ground, but in the ground. These rock hewn churches are unique to Lalibela and stand as marvels of engineering and dedication. The most famous and most photographed of these is the Church of Saint Georges. Here's a wide shot of it to give you some context and scale.

St. Georges wide

All of the other churches are built in a more standard rectangular format, but this is unique for being in the shape of, no surpirse, Saint Georges cross. These are enormous structures carved directly down into the rock, and the interiors have been hallowed out the same rock. They basically just removed everything that wasn't a church. Amazing skill and craftmanship. Here's Saint Georges at a more photogenic time of day.

Saint Georges sunset

These are a few samples of the churches interiors.

Church interior

Carved saint

The top picture shows not only the beautifully carved archways, but the painted decorations that went into the interiors. The bottom picture is one of twelve carvings representing the twelve apostles. Each apostle was about nine feet tall.

Since most of the churches are more traditional in shape, and the fact that many of them are covered with these hideous looking steel and canvas structures, photographing the buildings themselves wasn't very appealing.

Saint Marys wide

The lack of landscape and architectural images to be made really forced me to focus on the people to tell the story of this place. And with almost 100,000 pilgrims present, there were plenty of opportunities to make images of people.

Priest with umbrella

Priest thru doorway

Lady in Furnace

Boy with sun rays

Three lady steps

Two girls

Cross and  cap

Priest out of Furnace

Priest with staff

After six days in Lalibela we visited a monastery then traveled by bus to Bahir Dar, on the shores of Lake Tana. Check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!


Julie said...

Incredible and amazing.

Jeff said...

Awesome and amazing pics! And the timing of you posting these pics is great since a family I know is heading to Ethiopa this coming weekend as part of the process for them to adopt 4 kids from Ethiopia.

Carolyn said...

Absolutely stunning Mr. G! As I told your beautiful wife, we would happily host an exhibition of your work at our house. :)

Anonymous said...

These pictures really are remarkable. Thank you for sharing them! I follow your wife on Twitter so I'm giving you some "comment love"!

A Red Sky Photo said...

oh my gosh. these are crazy pictures! so beautiful. you done good. cant wait to see more. much applause to my new photo friend!


Trish T. said...

These photos are even more amazing than your usual beautiful work! Glad the trip lived up to your expectations.