Kieron Nelson has been swarmed by African tsetse flies, succumbing to altitude sickness in Tibet, and been threatened by arrow-wielding tribesmen of the Amazon.
Adventure just happens when you visit some of the world’s most unique and isolated cultures, the Sarnia photographer says.
“It makes for some good stories years later on, but at the time it’s not so pleasant,” he said with a laugh.
Nelson has travelled to about 50 countries including Mali, Niger and Pakistan to document their vanishing cultures — always opting to live among local residents.
On Feb. 5, he will share a multi-media production from his latest adventure in Laos and North Vietnam at a Sarnia Photographic Club meeting.
Nelson, who has been published in National Geographic and won numerous international
awards, said its French-colonial architecture and cascading rice paddies drew him to the region. But the primary goal was to experience the Red Dao tribe, known for its intricate wedding traditions.
“As village elders pass on, a lot of the languages and a lot of their culture ends up going with them. It’s not being picked up by the younger generation,” said Nelson, 70.
A highlight was photographing a Red Dao woman on her wedding day. As he shot in a drenching rain, villagers laughed at the sight of him balancing on a chair with an umbrella held over his head, he said.
“There was a lot of laughter at my difficult and unpleasant situation. But it reinforced the idea to never put the camera away, no matter what the weather.”
The retired engineer said he strives to visit a new part of the planet each year, but economic and political uncertainty is making that increasingly difficult.
Sadly, he added, some of the cultural experiences he has documented have since disappeared and exist now only in his photos.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: The Sarnia Photographic Club presents: Stairway to Heaven – A Photographer’s Journey through Laos and northern Vietnam
WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Sarnia Library Theatre, 124 Christina St. S.