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K'Ho People

July 17, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

*** All images taken with Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm f1.4 lens ***

Yesterday my Dalat photographer friends and I went in search of the Long Eared Ladies. They insert ivory into their earlobes when they are married, and the lobes are stretched over time. They live in an ethnic minority village down the hill west of Dalat, about 50 kms away, but unfortunately when we got there both the ladies had passed in the last year. We were too late. There are now no longer any left in this area of Vietnam. Such a shame, but they were both very old. The husband of one lady is still alive, but is very close to passing also. Apparently he's 105, but they don't have accurate birth records and measure their age in moon cycles, so it's difficult to know exactly what age he may be. Old...for certain.

We were all feeling a little disappointed and were going to head back to Dalat when we spotted a family of women and children playing at the front of a great old wooden house. The open shade lighting was perfect and they were happy for us to photograph them. It's funny that I end up doing a candid family portrait session! The tribe in this area are the K'Ho/Koho people, and you can read a little more about them here. They were wonderful and I was amazed that they allowed the three of us to photograph them so freely and willingly. And between the three of us I think we shot them from every angle! The next time the guys go out that way they'll drop in some photos for them and I like the idea that my pictures may be pinned to a K'Ho wall some day :)

You will also get an idea from this post as to how a photographer works a subject. I don't normally get this much time with local people so I probably overshot a little through excitement...but I think we all did!

I wandered across the road to play with a couple of other children and to photograph the colourful washing hanging along the fence to dry, when this wonderful old lady walked by with a heavy load of fire wood in a basket on her back. Thankfully my local photog guides negotiated with her to take her picture, and she also allowed us to follow her home to capture more of her life. This was gold for me. I'd never be able to enter this world without the help of Luyen and Nhan...thank you eternally. This is definitely the type of photography I want to do while I'm here, and I've put together a slideshow of our short time with her. I tell you...she still has a good walking pace! We were doing well to keep up with her! After she put her basket down she lifted her shirt to show her bumpy and bruised spine from years of carrying the wood...shocking. We all gasped. She walks with a permanent stoop and I'm not surprised why. I lifted the basket and it would have to have been about 35 - 40 kgs as best as I could guess. She probably also has scoliosis.

She made me laugh though. When I showed her some of the pictures  her first reaction was 'I look so old'! Every woman on the planet over the age of 30 says the same thing!

This slideshow documents our time with her...we all took a LOT of pictures...these are just a few of mine:

Word got around quickly that there were three photographers in town and we got to meet a couple of the neighbours also!

K These may be some of the world's poorest people, but the smiles and warmth were infectious...

Tomorrow I jump on the back of a bike for a two day tour of the Central Highlands finishing up on the coast in Nha Trang. I already have my photographer contact for there and I look forward to gaining the local insight to that area. I can't believe how lucky I am to have tapped into this network :)


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