Chris Rainier’s black-and-white imagery captures the rapidly shrinking number of indigenous non-Western cultures across the globe.
The mission of the Enduring Voices Project is to document endangered languages around the globe and work to prevent the extinction of those languages. According to a sobering National Geographic statistic, almost 80 percent of the world's population speaks only 1 percent of its languages. The corollary is that only a handful of people are left who speak some of the several thousand other languages. When those people are gone, the language becomes extinct – forever.
The All Roads Photography Project seeks to reverse the historical trend of relying on Western photographers to document so-called "Third World" cultures. This program funds indigenous photographers to document their own cultures and then provides a venue for those stories, whether it is in print, video or exhibitions. This is a chance not only for indigenous people to tell their own stories, but for people in the West to gain new perspectives and new insights into the rest of the world.
We need to create more mechanisms to hear those 'other' voices, to empower other cultures to tell their stories.
"We need to create more mechanisms to hear those 'other' voices, to empower other cultures to tell their stories," Rainier says. "The two National Geographic programs really enhance the ability to be able to hear from other people, other cultures and other storytellers. This is our way of sitting at the table of the world and listening as well as sharing."
IN THE LOUPE: Chris Rainier
Home and studio: Telluride, Colo., and upstate New York.
Books: "Keepers of the Spirit" (1993), "New Guinea: Where Masks Still Dance" (1996), "Ancient Marks" (2004)Recent Accolades: The Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Magazine Photography; five National Press Association Picture of the Year awards; a Communications Arts award; listed as one of American Photo's 100 Most Influential People Working in Photography.
Clients: National Geographic Publications, Time, Life, The New York Times, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, the International Red Cross, Amnesty International, the United Nations.
Preferred equipment: For black-and-white – Hasselblad, Fuji 617s and Diana cameras. "My love is black-and-white, and I will always shoot black-and-white," he says. For color work – Canon D-series cameras. Also, Norman 400B electronic flashes.
Personal Projects: He has two book projects in the works, one that deals with capturing the meaning of the word "sacred" and the other on ancient Asia. Visit chrisrainier.com for details.
Advice for aspiring travel photographers: "You have to be driven by passion. You have to be driven by a love of telling the story. And if that's not there, something's missing. If that's present, then it will take you through to the very end."