Michael Hanson's portraits prove that sometimes the most original images come when a photographer steps outside his comfort zone. When the Seattle-based documentary photographer made a trip to Ethiopia's remote Omo Valley, he discovered that its villagers, members of ancient tribes who have not adopted Western ways, have grown used to posing for tourists. "There was no way they were going to let me photograph them in a natural way," says Hanson, whose solution was to ditch his reportage style in favor of stark black-and-white portraiture. By focusing purely on the villagers and their tribal markings, Hanson was able to convey not just the essence of their personalities, but the compelling culture that has shaped them.
• Training: A former minor-league baseball player, Hanson is selftaught as a photographer.
• Work owned by: The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
• Inspired by: A curiosity about the people behind food and everyday objects; he's documented the gold mines in Chile and the oyster industry in Florida.
• Best advice: Learning how to connect to the people in your shots is more important than mastering the gear or the business side of photography.
• Website: michaelhansonphotography.com