From Lens Culture:
Isabel Muñoz has always used her camera to move in close to her subjects — closer than we would permit ourselves. She’s done this so well with sensuous dancers in her series on the rituals of the Tango, Flamenco and traditional Oriental dance. She has captured exquisite “fragments” of the acts of intimacy and seduction with striking interplays of bodies, limbs, shadow and light.
In her most recent work, shown here, she has challenged herself even more by venturing into southern Ethiopia to photograph 21st century Surma, Nyangatom, Bodi, and Topossa tribal members. Some of the warriors, like the first one shown at right, kill their neighboring tribesmen as a matter of pride.
Working with a portable photo studio (three cameras, backdrops, generators and lights), Muñoz gets in close again, with striking photographs that are rich with details: the leather-like textures of skin, drips of sweat, patterns of scarification, piercing, mud and body paint, and elaborate decorative body art. But these are not intimate portraits. Her subjects stare directly into the camera with mask-like faces, fierce dignity and palpable distrust in their eyes. The effect is especially unnerving because the photographs and the people are so pristinely beautiful.