For the last few years, Kyle Weeks has visited the Kunene region of northern Namibia and photographed the Himba people who live there. For this part of the project, he’s handed the camera over to the locals to create a series of captivating self-portraits they had complete control over.
“When I had previously photographed Himba people, I had inadvertently adopted a kind of fleeting, unfiltered touristic eye, characterised by the search for visual difference,” says Kyle. “I recognised that images of this culture were incredibly prolific, but that none that I had seen were contributing in any way to the documentation of their contemporary cultural identity. The rift between the representation and realities of these people became profoundly apparent.”
Kyle sought to challenge the usual power dynamic between sitter and photographer with this set of portraits, allowing each of the men to control the shutter release. For the photographer this reduced his influence over the resulting images and allowed the me to portray their own identities for the camera. “In doing so we get to see these young men, as they want to be seen: traditional, contemporary and proud of whom they are,” says Kyle. “It calls for an end to preconceived visual assumptions, as the hybridisation of their culture no longer facilitates such a clear-cut distinction between traditional and contemporary cultural identity.”