The men and women of the Omo Valley are known for, and studied for, their cultural diversity, and the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By by Siska Lyssens (TL Magazine) |

For thousands of years, the Omo Valley, in Southern Ethiopia, has been a place of cultural and ethnic encounter. The various peoples who’ve lived and migrated across the basin – the ochre-skinned Hamer, the scarified Karo and the lip-plated Suri and Mursi, to name a few – are pastoralists or agro-pastoralists, who have cultivated the land and reared cattle there for millennia. The ancient cultures that arose in the Omo river’s fertile valley date as far back as the Pleistocene era. Today, the men and women of the Omo Valley are known for, and studied for, their cultural diversity, and the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourism is steadily rising, and the colourful, proud people are photographed profusely by documentary and amateur photographers alike.

One photographer stands out: Alex Franco, a Barcelona-born and London-based autodidact with experience in both fashion and documentary photography. Having moved to London 12 years ago, after feeling that “Barcelona had nothing more to offer me at that point in my life,” Franco immersed himself in the English capital. “London allowed me to discover more about myself, other people and my craft, and taught me to connect to different cultures and subcultures,” he says. “You experience a constant sense of renewal personally and professionally.”

Growing up in Spain means he “adopted a fairly open-minded and liberated mind-set,” Franco adds. “I feel that I have an appreciation for this sensibility to appreciate while exploring the curiosities that make life interesting and meaningful.”Through a good friend of his, who’s from Djibouti but was raised in Ethiopia, Franco ended up visiting the Omo Valley in 2013. “Honestly, I had no expectations,” he admits. “I had a very clear feeling that all I wanted to do was to get to know these communities and learn from them. There is definitely a stereotype of what these communities are about, but I do not believe it is entirely accurate.”

Continue: Ethiopia’s Omo Valley through the lens of Alex Franco at TL Magazine
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