AMAZON JUNGLE, ECUADOR, 2001
hen you’re a potential food source for the other inhabitants of your environment, your priorities change quickly. Such was my reality during my stays with various indigenous tribes in the rainforest. From the concrete jungle to the real jungle,
the focus of my day-to-day existence shifted from convenience to survival. I went from Amazon Prime living to primal living in the Amazon. And if it wasn’t for the extraordinary joint effort of my native hosts, I could have easily ended up as someone’s dinner.
A tribe is a community built on a backbone of shared values, beliefs, and purpose in life. Our earliest ancestors banded together beyond the primal bonds of kinship in order to survive. These first tribes blazed a trail for the grand experiment we call society, which taught us to be human. We are now the only surviving species of Hominini — the human tribe.
Humans evolved from one species of primates that emerged out of Africa over three hundred thousand years ago. We weren’t the strongest animal, but we had other things going for us. We were bipedal, which gave us a vantage to scan for predator and prey, and the freedom to use our hands. We were also blessed with an unusually large brain that allowed us to fashion tools, weapons, clothing, and fire. And with the advent of cooking, the energy liberated from food digestion was diverted to our mental burners.
Over time, we congregated into larger clans, combining our knowledge and skills. Our survival became dependent on maintaining tight knit relationships and cooperation. It gave us a significant advantage over other animals competing for the same resources in a hostile and unpredictable environment.
We may have continued our short life of hunting and savagery had it not been for one game changing development: language. Other animals could communicate, but we made an astounding evolutionary leap in information processing — from grunting to articulating abstract concepts. We learned to express our thoughts. We became linguistically fluent, able to speak of love, hope, and freedom. We became storytellers, forming a collective identity by weaving together common histories about who we are and how we live. Our large neocortex, arising from either random genetic mutation or by 'intelligent design', helped to ignite this rapid evolution.
As living conditions improved, our consciousness expanded, and we were able to ask bigger questions, like, what does it mean to be human? As we honed our ability to think, to wonder, to understand; to reflect, to create, to be curious, and to make order out of chaos, our construct of the universe became increasingly elaborate. Suddenly, it became necessary to express ideas of our selves and our values in order to establish our purpose in the world beyond mere survival. That is the greatest gift and curse of our humanity.
To understand and record our world, humans expressed unique realities through philosophy, literature, art, music, myth, and religion. Every culture was an attempt to abate the same fears, and to answer the same questions. Ultimately, it mutated into dogma. So paradoxically, what was supposed to be a source of spiritual comfort and relief from a sense of aloneness in the universe often manifested as prejudice, ethnic cleansing and warfare. This new breed of tribalism was no longer driven by physical survival but rather the survival of ideologies.
espite our astonishing progress, somewhere along the way, we lost the original sense of the word tribe. Whenever I stay with an indigenous community, I'm always amazed at how inextricably integrated they are. Each member of the tribe,
regardless of their age, contributes in some capacity to the overall well-being of the community, whether it's hunting or cooking or telling stories. They still have a strong sense of belonging built into their way of life, and in many cases, they would die for each other.
In modern society, our mission is no longer merely one of survival, but survival with the utmost pleasure and control. We are better off materialistically than ever before, but we have also become atomized and individualistic. Thus, it's easier to draw imaginary lines between ourselves instead of collaborating towards a shared goal like our ancestors. But as they were acutely aware, survival of the fittest was a joint effort. So while we no longer have to hunt for food, our survival still depends on each other and our planet. And to tackle the challenges we face requires us to relearn that which we have forgotten, or has been forced out of us.
Tribe is my homage to the human tribe in remembrance of our common purpose and meaning. It’s a meditation on who we are, how we got here, and on the improbable good fortune of our existence. It’s about origins and endings, about people, about faces that haunt, about the passage of time and nostalgia for an innocence lost, about mortality and return. The images showcased here have been meticulously selected from a vault of thousands of rolls of film and countless terabytes of data. They are categorized into eight chapters representing the stages of the human experience: life, death, and ideas of the afterlife.
that there is no race but the human race. And its beauty stems from our sameness despite our differences. Every person has a story of love and heartbreak, of joy and tragedy, hope and despair. Everyone shares similar dreams and aspirations. Every single human is fascinating if we care to look and listen.
Tribe is a celebration of every one of us that makes up the human tribe. It reflects my awe of being alive and my thrill of discovering what it means to be us in every shape, color, and form. It is rooted in the hope that the very ingenuity that allowed us to dominate our beginnings guides us to a future connected as one humanity. One tribe. ▪️
ver the past thirty years, my camera has been an instrument to see into the shadows of the human soul. My encounters with cultures around the world and people from all walks of life have granted me with one golden nugget of wisdom:
AMAZON JUNGLE, ECUADOR, 2002
THE BIRTH OF CONSCIOUSNESS
ach human being that is born is twice conceived: in body and in mind. At the moment of physical birth, the mind awakens, naked, unformed, knowing nothing of the new world beyond itself. Immersed into a reality shaped by millennia of human
progress, individual consciousness develops within the framework of our collective past. As primitive beings, our awareness was restricted to raw sensory data and a simple pleasure-pain mechanism. Survival in a hostile environment forced man to think, to reflect, to establish a figurative and linguistic understanding of objects, of differences, of transitivity. Adaptation to external stresses stimulated the unconscious soul to evolve into the fully conscious, aware soul, and human clans split out along diverging evolutionary paths. While modern society evolved technologically, indigenous cultures established a profound and intimate understanding of nature. Today, their worldview is synonymous with the rainforest itself, and what may seem to us to be "primitive life" is actually a masterly adaptation to the environment. Their earth is vibrant with life and mystery; and in the depths of their ancient wisdom lie the origin and essence of the entire human race. ▪️
SRI LANKA, 2015
THE INNOCENT EYE
hildhood is carved out by sounds and smells and sights, before ritual and maturity strips life of its daily magic. Each new experience, each new encounter leaves an indelible impression on a virgin mind. Ideas and thoughts, bursting with wonder
and naiveté, reach up like trees towards the imagination; reach down like roots into the joy of existence. Though adults create the world in which a child enters, through innocent eyes, the rooms of an ordinary home somehow appear more grand, and the shadows near the bed at night loom in a more delightful horror. In the golden light of dawn, everything glitters forever for a moment. ▪️
THE CELEBRATION OF LIFE
ulture defines our society, fuels our differences, and highlights our similarities. Across vast oceans and awesome distances, along parched lands on and upward to the mountains, surrounded by the heat, the dust and the rumble of distant drums,
every culture celebrates life by accentuating different parts of the same reality. Each defines its own purpose and meaning, shaped by particular ideas, values and beliefs, and colored by distinct rituals and ceremonies. Through experience, observation and inference, cultures and individuals alike gain knowledge. As society evolves, culture is created and recreated in every individual mind. The making of a mind is, first, the slow arduous process of learning shapes, purposes and values. Then, it is the rudimentary testing of this awareness through experience, and the understanding of subtle interconnections of details. Ultimately, the mind, as the locus of identity, bends the world to its own ends, celebrating individuality through creativity and self-expression.▪️