In this showcase series we feature the wonderful work of Sergio Carbajo. Sergio is a photographer from Spain, and travelled to Africa this year to document the Suri Tribe from Ethiopia. He spoke to Photophique about his extraordinary trip to Africa:
Hi Sergio, can you tell us a little about your photographic background?
Since I was a child I always had an artistic side to explore, first with drawing and later with photography. I started with digital cameras when I was 18-19 years old and my subjects were just my friends and family.
Then I started to travel, first to near countries around Spain, then to far destinations. I started to improve my equipment and my skills. I learned everything I know by myself, reading and practicing. After my first trip to India something changed in my photography, I started to get more and more interested in people and culture than in sightseeing or traditional tourism.
Nowadays, I’m a computer engineer and I work as a technical consultant and developer for Microsoft solutions (ERP, CRM and Sharepoint) but I always try to get some time for my passions, travel and photography.
What was the inspiration behind your trip to Ethiopia?
My last trips had been in Asia and I felt I needed a change. I knew I wanted to get to know different cultures and people so I chose two different trips for this year. The first one was to Longwa, on the border of India with Myanmar to meet the last Konyak Headhunters and the other one to Ethiopia.
It was my first time in Africa so I read a lot to get information about different countries. Finally I decided that Ethiopia could be a very good option, and it was indeed. It’s a beautiful country, very different from north to south, and regarding culture and people, it’s a jewel.
Were you well received by the Suri tribe?
I think I had very good luck on finding the perfect guide for the south of Ethiopia. I usually travel by my own, but if you plan to stay with some tribes in their village you need a guide, and a very good one. I stayed with 3 different tribes in south Ethiopia (Hamar, Mursi and Suri). I stayed in a Suri village near Kibish which is one of the most remote places in Ethiopia. My guide Tzbit lived there for some years and knows the language and people.
I was very well received by the people and we had great moments but also moments full of tension since situations sometimes involve drunk men and Kalashnikovs. Besides that, the Suris also face another problem caused by the government. They are being forced to leave their lands because the government is making business there, so there are confrontations between them and usually ends with blood on the Suri side.
Regarding photography, almost everybody is on the business of asking money for the photos. It’s lawful and I don’t think the situation is going to change soon, but the government should take part on this. So they are very happy if you ask someone to take photos but if someone else sees you the rest of the village will hurry up to catch you and ask for photos. And you need a lot of patience to handle the situation.
What equipment did you use?
I decided to carry a foldable Lastolite softbox for the flash lights. I use a Nikon SB700 which works great for close distances and good light situations. I bought a Nikon D600 last year and I’m very happy with it, I don’t have plans to change it. I always use fixed lenses for my portraits.
I like to get close the people, so the focal distances I use most are 28mm and 50mm. Some people ask me how I manage to make the portraits when I travel. I always say that, wherever the person is from, whatever he looks likes, or even if he’s carrying a weapon. Behind all that, there’s a person who you can talk to and spend a great time taking photos. Even if there’s a language barrier, that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with that person.
Do you have any plans for more series in the future?
I’m always thinking about new destinations for my series. I’d love to visit some countries in South America, Andaman Island, Borneo , Mongolia, Papua New Guinea… it’s an endless list.
Photophique has express permission to publish these images and Sergio Carbajo retains full copyright to all photographs featured in this showcase series.