The Annenberg Space for Photography’s group show “No Strangers: Ancient Wisdom in A Modern World” features a comprehensive and expansive visual study of culture, particularly ones that are becoming rarer and smaller. Sounds like an overdone and cliche show but far from it. I fault myself for not educating myself enough about different cultures, but the show inspired me to stimulate my curiosity especially about those that are in danger of disappearing too soon.
Photographers in the show include Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, a dynamic and well matched pair who’ve studied African cultures for decades without the tinted lenses of Western ideas. Brent Stirton, the senior photographer for Getty Images, whose projects literally cover the entire globe. A Yin’s longitudinal anthropological study of Mongolian nomads experiencing extreme degrees of globalization within just a few years.
My absolute favorite, Hamid Sardar, also spent time with Mongolian nomads but in this particular project, he studied those yet largely untouched by the outside world with emphasis on their gracefully natural relationship to animals. Sardar says of the project:
My goal was to create a photographic inventory of nomads and identify the part of wisdom buried in their customs and their way of life before they are separated from their natural environment and spirit… Being completely cut off from urban civilization, strangely, I felt protected in the Mongolian wilderness. It reveals a resonance between the animal and the man that can not be found in other places less primitive. I met this old man in the Gobi desert, who with his violin, a camel moved him to tears and made him adopt the abandoned camel. I saw a Buryat lama who brought the wolves at his door by singing an old song. I rode the mountains of Altai with Kazak herdsmen who taught me to capture golden eagles in their nests and train them to hunt, before releasing them into the wild. This ecological mysticism which links the animal to man has become the main theme of this work of art.
Take a trip to the Annenberg in Century City before the show leaves on Feb 24, and while you’re there, watch the featurette. It was well crafted like the rest of the show. What’s even better about the whole thing – all shows at the Annenberg are free to the public. So there’s really no excuse not to see it.