Photos of Ethiopian villagers on display in Bird Rock

Never-before-seen photographic images from world traveler Briana Gallo of La Jolla are on exhibit through the month of November at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters’ Art & Music Collective, 5627 La Jolla Blvd.

Throughout her career, Gallo has taken photos for National Geographic as well as several anthropologists. Her show features images of three tribes in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia, and captures their cultural nuances, which are in danger of being lost due to modern development.

Gallo said she started photographing the tribes in 2014. She found the roads into the Omo are long and best tackled one obstacle at a time. Many of the villages are a cluster of huts — with goat pens and grain cribs along the periphery — everything washed in dust. A number of tribes reside in isolation, in a place that is still raw, natural and timeless.

Gallo has a way of forging connections with the people. She gets inside their world, asking them questions, listening with concern to their answers, and turning her lens into a bridge that connects viewers to their story.

The tribes are facing difficult times. A massive hydroelectric dam, Gibe III, is close to completion in the Omo River. The dam was built to support the commercial plantations.

However, it’s said the dam will destroy the fragile environment and livelihoods of the tribes, especially those that are closely linked to the river and its annual flood.

Many tribes are being evicted to roadside villages without their consent and their ancestral grazing lands are being sold off to investors for commercial plantations. These land grabs, combined with the drought, are leading to starvation in some parts of the Lower Omo Valley.

To learn more, visit or send her an e-mail at

ALSO ON DISPLAY this month at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is the radiant “Mandala Series” by La Jolla artist Sabrina Molina, as well as the stunning nature photography of Matt Sampson. He is a member of the Kubiak Research Group, and his Ph.D. work at UC San Diego focuses on inorganic chemistry dealing with the conversion of carbon dioxide into renewable fuels.