The Massai Men of Tarangire

On my recent visit to Tanzania our group visited a Massai tribal village. The Massai are a semi-nomadic tribal people indigenous to Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania in Africa. They are mostly livestock herders and move their livestock to different pastures as the seasons change much as the large game animals migrate in the region.

Upon our arrival, we observed a ritual dance of welcome. After the dance, the chief explained their tribal culture and lifestyle. The men of the tribe were sitting under a tree as we prepared to leave and I asked the chief if I could make some pictures of the men. He said yes and told me to go over and make my pictures. As I approached the men, I did not know if they were welcoming of a photographer or if the even understood my interest because they all spoke Swahili (except for the chief).

As I approached the men I humbly asked, “does anyone speak English?” One man replied “no” and I responded “Well, you must speak a little” and they all laughed. So I asked if I could take their pictures and several others spoke up, in English, “Yes!” I was delighted. So I approached the mound under the tree where they were sitting and took my position, front and center, on one knee. I wanted to be humble and unassuming while also capturing their height and stance of authority in their community. The men were not posed. I did not ask them to move or smile. As I focused my 70-200mm telephoto at each man one at a time, I carefully framed their faces. I just waited for their animal spirit to surface before I clicked the shutter. Afterwards, I thanked the men and told them they were handsome men whom the ladies would be proud to have as a husband. We exchanged smiles and our group leader called me to the Land Rover so we could move on with our journey.

The portraits of these men convey their unique personalities in a very honest and revealing manner. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed making them. If you received this notice by email, please view the slideshow of nine portraits on the website.

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