Viewfinder: Anne Menke

  • Pilgrim’s progress: on the banks of the Ganges in Varansi one of India's holiest cities, little has changed since the photograph was taken a dozen years ago.

    Pilgrim’s progress: on the banks of the Ganges in Varansi one of India's holiest cities, little has changed since the photograph was taken a dozen years ago. "Pilgrims from distant places arrive here adorned in sequins, henna, and their brightest colors," says Menke,"and all have smiles in their eyes."

  • A Naadam festivalgoer in the grasslands outside the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.

    A Naadam festivalgoer in the grasslands outside the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.

  • Brazilian Whacks: A group of men in Salvador, northeastern Brazil, practicing capoeira, a martial art that combines elements of dance and music.

    Brazilian Whacks: A group of men in Salvador, northeastern Brazil, practicing capoeira, a martial art that combines elements of dance and music.

  • Negotiating a mountain track in the southern highlands of Peru.

    Negotiating a mountain track in the southern highlands of Peru.

  • Masai warriors posing for a shot outside Nairobi.

    Masai warriors posing for a shot outside Nairobi.

  • Buoyed by woven reeds, this floating village on Peru's Lake Titicaca is home to a pre-Incan people called the Uros.

    Buoyed by woven reeds, this floating village on Peru's Lake Titicaca is home to a pre-Incan people called the Uros.

  • Anoraks are the ultimate style statement in Barrow, Alaska.

    Anoraks are the ultimate style statement in Barrow, Alaska. "I came here in 1999 on a fashion shoot for Japanese Vogue," says Menke, "but by the time we had arrived in September, all the icebergs had melted. Luckily the Inuit turned out to have a fantastic style of their own."

  • A gaucho displaying some fancy horse work on the high-altitude ranges of Salta province, Argentina. “The Indios cowboys had such great style,” says Menke of her 1998 visit. “Thick ponchos, wide-brimmed hats, and loose-fitting pants called bombachas. It had always been a dream of mine to shoot them.”

    A gaucho displaying some fancy horse work on the high-altitude ranges of Salta province, Argentina. “The Indios cowboys had such great style,” says Menke of her 1998 visit. “Thick ponchos, wide-brimmed hats, and loose-fitting pants called bombachas. It had always been a dream of mine to shoot them.”

  • A trapper’s house in Quebec, Canada.

    A trapper’s house in Quebec, Canada.

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“Her lens brings us past the photo itself,” says Hilfiger in the book’s introduction, “ and discovers a deeper beauty that exists in every moment.”

Fueling Menke’s passion is the natural grace of indigenous cultures—in her words, “their immensely differing, but each in its own way traditional, iconographies, architectural modes, and styles of dressing.” On the islands of Lake Titicaca, which spans Peru and Bolivia, Menke captures the color of Andean ways of life where “the women perform manual labor in the fields, harvesting corn and potatoes. The men do all the knitting.”

On another project, she approached the holy Indian city of Varanasi from a different perspective, training her camera on children playing in or on the Ganges rather than at the crematory fires of the ancient pilgrimage site’s burning ghats.

Her images of Lijiang, China, by contrast, bring to life an outpost “weathered in the type of way only a deeply remote place can be, with centuries of life and wear. There wasn’t a wall, building, or face that wasn’t beautifully authentic and worn.”

Menke now lives between New York and the Mexican village of Sayulita, where she has cofounded the Costa Verde International School Project, which focuses on advancing environmentally friendly education. “Meeting people with such wildly dissimilar references and exploring new socio-cultural terrain is the source and inspiration of my life,” Menke says. “To be able to share that with the world is an incredible gift.”

Originally appeared in the December 2012/January 2013 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Frames of Reference”)

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