Photographs depicting the mesmerising and unique hairstyles of local Himba people from Namibia recently made the rounds on the internet. The eye behind the photographs was French pro-photographer Eric Lafforgue, and he agreed to chat to us about his passion for photography, Namibia and its people.
Give us a brief background as to who you are, where you are from and what you do?
I m French, I m a professional photographer since 2006 and I travel the world to visit the countries that are not too touristic and the cultures of the world with a focus on the local tribes.
I live in Toulouse in the south of France. I m part of the sony ambassador team.
Tell us how you first came to Namibia, and what has brought you back? Or is this your first time in Namibia? What are your impressions?
Since I was young I am fascinated by the tribes and the Himbas. Going to Namibia was an old dream so I first came to Namibia in 2011, the a second time few weeks ago.
My main impression was that the country is really rich in culture, with even tribes few people know like Mucawana near Cunene river.
Namibia is too much associated with dunes, but Ovambo culture for example is a real gem!
I see you have also focused on particular subjects, such as Himba hair, and the San. Tell me more about your fascination with these topics?
Everywhere I go I try to focus on the lifestyle the traditions and the way people look.
Traditions are fading so quickly with modernisation that it is urgent to take pics to have such testimonies of the hair, the jewelry etc.
Himbas and San are so welcoming people that it is a pleasure to work with and to make such great pictures. It is not always the case in tribal areas around the world where tourism has killed the friendly relation you can get, like in omo valley in Ethiopia.
Tell us about your beginnings as a photographer? What sparked your initial interest in photography?
I went into photography as I had already worked for radio tv, press, web, mobile etc.
I did not made photography before 2006 so it was a challenge for me to find a place in this tough business, since then I work for big magazines such as lonely planet, Nat Geo, or daily mail.
What are your favourite photographic subjects? (i.e people, wildlife, birds, people etc)
I love people as like I use to says it is hard to have a chat or a laugh with a baobab! But I try to enlarge my pictures to show also the way people live, their housing, their landscape etc
It tells a lot.
Tell us about your most unforgettable photographic moment or moments – in general but also in Namibia?
In a recent trip I visited a refugee camp of Syrian people in Iraq, I never had such a friendly welcome. Those people have lost everything but insisted to invite me to share food, drinks etc
Those people have blue eyes and are so close to us, European.
In Namibia, I had the chance to see a ceremony for the the teens girls and the chants and dances still blow my mind!
What keeps you going as a photographer? What motivates you?
I have choosen a target that is not very popular to many who will never travel where I go, so when I see that pics listed in social medias make thousands of hits, or that the himbas story in daily mail made 10 millions views, I think it is a really good opportunity to open the mind of many on differences and richness of the world.
What are your tips to others of how to make sure you get the shots you want? How do you approach your photography as a lifestyle?
Take time to speak to people to make them confident, try to give, not only to take also, is the basis of my activity.
Every destination has its challenges and rewards, how does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
The light in Namibia is really special, I loved the sunset light, it makes the himbas look incredibly beautiful!
One trio in Namibia is also a great opportunity of photo diversity: people. Landscape, animals, all in the same area!
When going on a Namibian photographic expedition, what is your equipment of choice? And what do you never leave home without?
I take pics with the brand sing a7r with a 24-70 zeiss at 2.8.
And a 85 mm at 1.2 for the portraits
I never leave home without 10 memory cards of 64 G!
A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top 3 tips would you give them?
Visit the himbas at sunset,
Stay a whole day in etosha,
Search the mucawana people that no tourists visit in Cunene,
You ll get the best shots.
FIND MORE ABOUT ERIC HERE