The life lesson this world-famous photographer learned after snapping remote cultures for 35 years

Photo: supplied.

Be open-minded and non-judgmental.

These are the words of a man who was one of the first the capture life in Tibet after the rapprochement of the region, following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.

“I was on the first Westerner expedition allowed into Tibet and up the North East ridge of Mount Everest after Mao,” Art Wolfe said.

“All through my youth nobody knew what was going on in Tibet, so I jumped at the chance to join an expedition to go in the early 80s.

“It was on that trip, where I was the expedition photographer there to document the climb, the environment, the mountains, that the cultures in these remote mountain valleys connected with me.

“I knew when I got back from Everest – if I survived the expedition – that I was going to continue to travel to the most remote places in the world to document these traditional cultures that I believed are at risk of fading away.”

From photographing the remote villages of Ethiopia to rural communities in Papua New Guinea, which he has documented in his recent project with National Geographic and Canon, “Tales By Light”, Wolfe says the one thing that is reminiscent across the globe is how humans everywhere incorporate art into their life.

“Remote cultures have a really elaborate art culture,” he said referring to the Aboriginal culture and the rock panels depicting the Dream Time, and the Berbers in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

“It serves that side of our spirit that needs nourishment. Arts are a really healthy thing for a culture.”

And while he admitted he doesn’t go blindly into an environment, he says he always tries to keep an open mind “because it can be a moment that is the best of a trip”.

“One of the most vivid moments that has happened was in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco,” he said.

“I was travelling up and over these mountains on the way to Marrakech… and in a mountain village I saw all these people walking in the same direction.

“I asked my guide what they were doing and he said ‘Quite frankly I have no idea’, so we followed them out of this little town to this open field and there was 200 horse riders with ancient rifles.

“They were [wearing] white robes and turbans – it looked like something out of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – and they proceeded to race down the field firing these muskets in a game called Fantasia.

“I just got my camera and documented it as the sun was setting. They have been some of the most memorable, beautiful, imperial photos I’ve even taken and it was completely unexpected.

“You have to put yourself in the position where magic can happen. Inevitably it is the serendipity of the moment that proves to be the most exciting. It is the true reality TV.”

Business Insider asked Wolfe how these experiences had impacted his view of the world, and life.

“I think the lesson is to have an open mind, to have curiosity,” he said.

“Don’t to be too judgmental… be a little more measured on how you criticise because you may be not have all the information.”

He said he has used the experiences he’s had in his 35 years of travel to educate others on the need for conservation and understanding of the natural environment and remote cultures.

“I consider myself a citizen of the planet. I have a better perspective of who I am, how I live.”

And if you can get a camera in you hand, even better.

“The camera allows people to create, and people are happier when they have something that engages them.

“I think the more you know about photography the more you appreciate it. Go for it, take as many pictures as you can, really just have fun with it.”

Here’s a look at some of the photos taken during the Tales By Light production.

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