Lynn Doran- Omo: Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley

This program was organized by David Hayen, Member #1203.


A Goat roast at sunset.

“OMO,” Lynn Doran’s stunning photographic images lead us across a bridge spanning culture, time, and terrain to Southwest Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, and along the winding bed of the Omo Valley’s Omo River. Doran’s formal artistic background lies in textiles, and she weaves with her camera, the warp and woof of her photographic images are textured with a deft mix of both the intimate, personal, and tactile, leading us on a graphic page-after-page trek with Omo Valley’s dominant tribes, where past and present have continued to exist simultaneously, with little change for many hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Lynn attending a wedding.

Lynn’s book “OMO” will be available for purchase. 50% of the proceeds will be donated to Survival International in their efforts to help the people of the Omo Valley. Credit | Lynn Duran

Ms. Doran took over 4,000 photos before selecting the 150 images for her coffee table size book.  Ms. Doran’s striking photographs include photographs of vivid face and body painting, piercing, scarification for decorative, heroic, ritual and medicinal purposes, are exaggerated by elaborate head and hair decorations. Two of the eight tribes of the Omo Valley still use lip plates, six inches in diameter, to enhance a young girl’s prospects for marriage. Plates slightly smaller are sometimes inserted into the earlobes. Carved or painted, in this region the body is an open canvas and a work of art.

Man in the Blue Hat Credit | Lynn Doran

From her portraits it is obvious that Ms. Doran loves people and seeks to capture the special moments in their lives, rituals and celebrations.  One critic has stated that Ms. Doran’s photographs “are taken by the eye also from the heart of a woman whose love of people and culture knows no limits.”

What Doran documented in 2013, ceased to exist in 2016 due to the completion of the Gibe III dam.  The life line to the Omo Valley is dried up. Inevitably, neither we nor the Omo people can know what the future portends, other than more change.

In her book, Doran quotes the anthropologist Wade Davis: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”

Lynn Doran in her element.

Enjoy stunning ocean views from Doran’s Palos Verdes cliff side home along with an art collection from around the world; Notable for both its tribal art (from the Omo Valley, the Congo, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria ), from Papua New Guinea (Asmat), Mexican Folk art and Coptic Christian pieces from Ethiopia.  In addition, there are also contemporary paintings by Frank Romera, Carlos Almaraz, Robert Longo and others.

Ms. Doran obtained her degree in fine art from Long Beach State.  Even during college Ms. Doran was traveling to Mexico and collecting folk art (during the days when field collecting was still possible).  After college Ms. Doran started a company making sports apparel which she operated until 2000.