The Mission

My photographic projects are dedicated to capturing the vanishing rituals and customs of indigenous and tribal people, recording their culture for others to learn from.   My goal is to help bring attention to the value these cultures represent and the challenges they face as the world around them continues to influence them.

My personal mission is a bit more complex.  Throughout my life, I have been searching for a way to connect with other human beings.  I have been looking for a group of people who will accept me, understand me and teach me how to live a better life.  American society is focused on materialistic possessions and people who place a strong sense of value on them.  Our identity and ability to relate to others is clouded.  My visits to the tribal communities have enabled me to see clearly what is really important in my life, by identifying with others who live simpler lives and seem so much happier than we do. 

The Problems

In today’s globalizing world, the remaining indigenous tribes are being forced to assimilate and westernize.   With the growing population encroaching tribal territories for various reasons, it is a race against time before the indigenous people have succumbed to the western and modern influences.

In many places the indigenous people have been threatened and exploited by powerful economic interests.  They continue to have limited power or political voice to defend themselves against abusing governments and corporate interests.  The tribes are exploited because they are viewed as obstacles of such commodities such as precious woods, stones and oil sought out by jaded westerners. They are vulnerable to the influences of others from outside their communities, which put the survival of their culture at risk.  The following issues are currently being threatened amongst tribal communities:

  1. Rights to their land
  2. Rights to their resources
  3. Language
  4. Culture & customs
  5. Traditional dress
  6. Music and arts
  7. Religion & spiritualism

The largest problem lies with the children of these cultures.  Enticed by modern ideas, concepts, and opportunities in nearby cities, the young are turning away from their traditions.  Most of the younger people want to migrate to the cities and try to adjust to a more modern lifestyle.  In the big cities, they now leave their former traditional lives behind and their culture is therefore extinguished in the developed world and forgotten.  Their culture, traditions, and language die and are never passed on to their children.

Change is inevitable, and is rapidly accelerating.  Visiting the tribes is helping to be part of the change.  I had brought change by merely being present in their villages, by exposing them to my clothes, language, and skin color.  It is not possible for one person to go to a remote part of the world and not bring about change.  No society can remain the same once the outside world has visited it.

Contact with outsiders brings not only change, but also the possibility of introducing disease to a vulnerable population, or forcing contact with a world that such a population may not be prepared to meet.