The urge to tell tales through pictures and to shine a light on small, silent yet incredibly important stories is what turned my passion for photojournalism into a profession”
The Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia is one of those legendary places that has long fascinated photographers, travellers and adventurers. It was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1980. The beauty of the tribes who live here and the landscapes carved out by the 800-kilometre river that gushes out into Lake Turkana draws flocks of tourists on a quest to experience the authentic, unspoiled atmosphere that is fast disappearing across the African continent. This haven was disrupted in 2008 by the Ethiopian government’s Gilgel Gibe III dam-building initiative.
Ethiopia. 2012. Loma, south of Addis
Abeba, during the construction of
the dam Gibe III. The dam has been
built 300 km south of Addis Abeba in
an unspoiled natural context
South Ethiopia. 2013. Borana ethnicity.
A Borana woman inside a singing
well is getting water to take to
ground level. She needs the water for
ther animals. In this ectremely dry
area, water is taken from 20 meters
deep wells, where the aquifer is located.
South Ethiopia. 2011. Omo Valley. Along the oriental shore of the Omo River near the Karo village, children are playing by jumping in the sand. The Karo village is located in a natural bights of the Omo River. Karos are a small tribe with an estimated population between 1,000 and 3,000 people and lives thanks to fishing and cultivation made possible by the flooding of the Omo River. Currently, the river forest seen in the background has been demolished and replaced by an extensive cotton plantation of a foreign private company. Following the construction and commissioning of the Gibe III dam, the flooding of the Omo River has stopped, depriving the Karo population of the possibility of cultivating those products that today they’re forced to buy at the market.
The highest dam in Africa
Italian photographer FaustoPodavini took his first steps in the industry in studio photography, before setting off in 2011 to document the impact of this dam on the local landscape and inhabitants. As the country’s economy atrophies beyond belief, buoyed by colossal European and Chinese investments, this 240-metre-high structure has doubled Ethiopia’s electricity production figures. Yet this development came at a price: massive geographical, cultural and ecological disruption. Inaugurated by the prime minister in 2016, the dam has considerably slowed the river’s course, eradicating river flooding and, in so doing, disrupting the lives of local farmers, cattle herders and fishermen. Most significantly of all, it has overturned the ancestral customs of the ethnic populations who called the depths of the forestland here home. Over 100,000 people displaced
NGOs working on the ground estimate that a total of 100,000 people have been directly affected by the dam.
By recounting the story of the Gilgel Gibe III dam and its impact on local populations, FaustoPodavini skilfully illustrates a wider problem: the loss of the planet’s native populations in the face of unstoppable, frenzied development, all in the name of instant profit. And the loss of a part of Africa’s soul, too.
This piece of work won the 2017 Visa pour l’Image/Yves Rocher Foundation Photo Award.
FaustoPodavini was also awarded second prize in the Long-Term Projects category of the 2018 World Press Photo contest.
Getting to know Fausto
“After training in technical and industrial electronics, I went to university to study engineering […]. During my student years, photography was a constant. I was interested in it throughout my career. To me, it’s synonymous with patience and silence. It’s always there to fill in the blanks or heighten important moments. […] I began working as an assistant in a photography studio, and that’s where I learnt to read and work with light, until that fateful encounter with […] Dario De Dominicis. He was the one who introduced me to photojournalism.”Fausto
find out more about Fausto’s work on his website::