Heroic yet sensitive portraits of men in Ghana and Ethiopia

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Photo © Elisabeth Sunday, Akan Lifeline, Ghana

For 25 years, Elisabeth Sunday has found her muse in Africa: a place of origins, devastating beauty, great troubles and unyielding expressions of life. A few years ago, Elisabeth traveled to the West African country of Ghana to scout out a new location. There, she met a group of Akan fishermen living along the beach who were willing to be photographed over a period of time. The fish, sometimes cradled in the arms of the powerful fishermen, are an ancient symbol of higher awareness and provide a proof of their continuous link to nature. Elisabeth simply asked the men to express their love for the sea through the fish they capture. The resulting portfolio of the Akan is an intimate look at their bond with the sea and the natural world and the respect they have for both.
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Photos © Elisabeth Sunday, from the series, Animus, made in Ethiopia

For another project, Elisabeth traveled to the country of Ethiopia in East Africa and photographed the painted tribes of the Omo Valley in the southwest. Elisabeth photographed the painted Koro men, (who only parted with their weapons for the sake of the shoot), for the Animus series exploring the shadow side of masculine identity.
When asked about her technique of creating these long, curvy stretched images, she explains how that came about:

My work was inspired by a series of vivid and transformative dreams of elongated and undulating imagery influenced by a painting my grandfather had made of Mangbetu Women in the Congo in 1931.

Not long after the dreams occurred, I searched for ways to elongate my images, as I had seen them, and began photographing with the mirror in 1983. I continue to use the mirror as a visual interpreter for the invisible forces that bind the forms of life together; each one connected through a pulsing, writhing sea of forms and shapes, from the great to the small, the complex to the simple.

The mirror is a creative tool, like a paintbrush or pencil that allows me to draw a doorway to another world and travel inward into a place of spirit, strength and beauty; a dwelling place common to the human soul.

The prints have no digital special effects or computer modifications of any kind. All are shot on negative film. The smaller prints, 30 x 40 inches and under, are printed on gelatin silver photographic paper and are handmade by me. Each is gold toned using a combination of processes I worked out 20 years ago. The gold toning casts a silvery blue in the highlights and warm brown in the shadow area of the print giving the print a slight split toned effect.

Elisabeth Sunday will give an artist talk at Gallery 291 in San Francisco, Thursday evening, June 9, 6 to 8 p.m.
You can see more of her work, here, in Lens Culture.