Ethnographs

About the exhibition

Made up of a series of beautiful and elegiac portraits of the people of the South Omo Valley region in Ethopia, the show sees artist Philip Gatward return to a subject that has fascinated him since childhood, when he was first astonished and moved by Robert Gardener’s 1974 documentary ‘Rivers of Sand’.

After years of planning, Gatward spent six weeks at the end of 2009 living with and documenting the beautiful and striking indigenous tribes. Having set up a temporary studio with lights and a simple background, he then chose not to over-direct his subjects but to allow them to present themselves in a way that felt natural to them. Eschewing use of the rigorous, unnatural post-production processes of digital enhancement on his life-sized exhibition prints, the resulting collection of analytical, reverential and honest photographs give the viewer an insight into the individual characters of these proud people and their culture.


I knew that I didn’t want to make beautiful, prettified pictures in Ethiopia. I wanted to make portraits of these extraordinarily self-aware sitters that were my response to the subject, but without the hundreds of colour adjustments that I may make in my other work. I didn’t want to bring my pre-made plan (crop, pose, lighting) to bear on these much-photographed people. Above all, I wanted to make respectful portraits.


Philip Gatward


About the thinkerdoer gallery

When we purchased our London studio space in 2015 we had a complete blank canvas to fit out a concrete shell exactly how we wanted. Working with Berkeley Group and their vision for the Royal Arsenal Riverside development, we decided to add a gallery. Everything we exhibit will relate to 'life' or 'science'. It works for us as a creative space area and interesting entrance to our studio, and it is nice for the people who discover it, come in to take a look, and perhaps think about something different for a small part of their day.

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