"The Wodaabe women of Niger have these incredible scar tattoos. I had some tribal tattoos done in Ethiopia - my arm was burnt with this poisonous plant but it only lasted about a year and a half."
Niger – Photo Tip

Make the most of proud cultures

Photo by Timothy Allen

Niger – Photo Tip Make the most of proud cultures

Photographing the Wodaabe in Eastern Niger was a great pleasure for a relatively shy person like myself.

Timothy Allen
Timothy Allen Travel Photographer

For starters, they are an incredibly beautiful people for whom cultural identity is still very strong. Secondly, and for me more importantly, is the fact that they are very proud of their beauty and enjoy showing it off to visitors.

I was invited to a Gerewol, where the Wodaabe gather to pass on news on traditions and all the young men dress in their finest costumes to compete for the attention of the young women. In a remote area such as this, it was common for me to meet people who had never seen a camera before.

The experience of interacting with someone who has no sense of photographic self-consciousness is a rare privilege these days. Doing so offers you a tremendous opportunity to work extremely closely with people, a fact that is highly significant to me since intimacy is the primary quality I am looking for in my images.

On many occasions this involves spending a lot of time with people without taking any photos at all. At the Gerewol, however, photographing the ladies who were watching the men dance required no such etiquette and I spent many enjoyable hours moving quietly among them with my cameras.

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The women of the Wodaabe are considered the most beautiful in West Africa but it is rare for them to marry outside the tribe. Light skin is considered attractive and one reason for the dark blue tattoo around the lips and the kohl eyeliner is to make the rest of the face appear less dark in contrast. Photo by Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen

Canon EOS 5D

Aperture
ƒ/4
Exposure
1/640
ISO
400
Focal
200 mm

The women of the Wodaabe are considered the most beautiful in West Africa but it is rare for them to marry outside the tribe. Light skin is considered attractive and one reason for the dark blue tattoo around the lips and the kohl eyeliner is to make the rest of the face appear less dark in contrast.

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