A photographer spent a year documenting 30-year-olds around the world -- here's what he found

Turning 30 may be cause to cheer or cringe, depending on where you’re from.

In 2014, photographer Stephane Domingues set out on a 15-month expedition around the world to meet and document the lives of other people in their 30s.” He wanted to see how nationality, culture, and living situations shape our values and define our identities.

The result is a stunning and honest portrait series, titled “Being 30.” Domingues shared some of the images with us. You can find out more about the project on his blog.

'Turning 30 was quite an important event in my life,' Stephan Domingues told Business Insider in 2015, when we first spoke. 'I felt it was the case for people around me.'

Courtesy of Stephane Domingues
Stephan Domingues shares a meal with subjects from his series.

Domingues spent a few months trying to organise his travel itinerary and a few years preparing financially, but ultimately left his route in 'the hands of destiny.'

Courtesy of Stephane Domingues

He left Paris in 2014 with his trusty Fuji X-T1 camera and a one-way ticket to Ethiopia.

Stephane Domingues

There, he met one of his first subjects: Bori Balachew, a cattle farmer and a father of five. At the time, Balachew lived in a small village in Ethiopia's South Omo Valley.

Stephane Domingues
Bori Balachew (b. Unknown, ~1984) -- South Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Balachew raised cattle and farmed on his family's plantation since he was eight or nine. He said he considers himself young until he buys more cows, an indicator of wealth.

Stephane Domingues
Bori Balachew (b. Unknown, ~1984) -- South Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Balachew described his greatest accomplishment as participating in a Hamer tribe ritual, during which he lived in the bushes and drank only goat blood and milk.

Stephane Domingues
Bori Balachew (b. Unknown, ~1984) -- South Omo Valley, Ethiopia

After meeting Balachew, Domingues bopped around from country to country, across five continents, in search of more 30-year-olds to photograph for his series.

Stephane Domingues
Alvaro Vera Vergara (b. October 21, 1983) -- Santiago, Chile

He found his subjects on social networking apps such as Airbnb, Instagram, Tinder, and Couchsurfing. Others he met on the street or through friends.

Stephane Domingues
Monique Forcioli (b. April 1, 1985) -- Cape town, South Africa

No two portrait sessions were the same. They lasted between a few hours and a week.

Stephane Domingues
Monique Forcioli (b. April 1, 1985) -- Cape town, South Africa

Domingues shadowed people at home, on their commutes, during work, and while socialising with friends or family, in order to get a full sense of their lives.

Stephane Domingues
Monique Forcioli (b. April 1, 1985) -- Cape town, South Africa

He always carved an hour for an interview, during which he asked the same questions about their lives, fears, ambitions, and memories.

Stephane Domingues
Faruk Gomes Antonio (b. October 1985) -- Ilha do Mozambique, Mozambique

Faruk Gomes Antonio, a fisherman from Mozambique, said the event that most shaped his life was when an armed group entered his village, and his family ran to the beach and hid. He was 12 at the time.

Stephane Domingues
Faruk Gomes Antonio (b. October 1985) -- Ilha do Mozambique, Mozambique

He said his best memory is 'right now.' He added: 'I am able to have a better job and income than ever before.'

Stephane Domingues
Faruk Gomes Antonio (b. October 1985) -- Ilha do Mozambique, Mozambique

Ines Mariana Rapoport is a music and piano teacher in Salta, Argentina.

Stephane Domingues
Ines Mariana Rapoport (b. January 6, 1982) -- Salta, Argentina

The death of the former Argentinean president affected her most in life, Rapoport told Domingues. She heard the news on the radio and cried. 'This made me realise what was my real political opinion,' Rapoport said.

Stephane Domingues
Ines Mariana Rapoport (b. January 6, 1982) -- Salta, Argentina

Her best memory was overcoming her fears and performing a solo piano concert.

Stephane Domingues
Ines Mariana Rapoport (b. January 6, 1982) -- Salta, Argentina

Domingues was surprised by the variety of answers he received in interviews. 'Life is at the same time very different and very similar everywhere,' he told Business Insider.

Stephane Domingues
Kornnatt Surapat (b. November 24, 1980) -- Bangkok, Thailand

In Bangkok, Thailand, he met Kornnatt Surapat, who dreamed of being a veterinarian as a child. He went on to study economics and became a yoga instructor.

Stephane Domingues
Kornnatt Surapat (b. November 24, 1980) -- Bangkok, Thailand

'At 30 I feel like I am trying to find the right balance in my life. I do not feel that old because I am a lifelong learner,' Surapat said. 'I may also feel young because I look younger than my age, even compared to my twin brother.'

Stephane Domingues
Kornnatt Surapat (b. November 24, 1980) -- Bangkok, Thailand

Domingues also met serial entrepreneur Maceo Paisley, who served five years doing logistics with the United States Army before settling in Los Angeles.

Stephane Domingues
Maceo Paisley (b. August 14, 1985) -- Los Angeles, California, United States

He was 16 when the terrorist attacks occurred on September 11. 'I told myself it was an accident, but then realised that someone did it on purpose,' Paisley said. 'I joined the Army two years after 9/11 because I wanted to give back to my country.'

Stephane Domingues
Maceo Paisley (b. August 14, 1985) -- Los Angeles, California, United States

Today, he's an artist, designer, and cultural producer. 'They say that in your 30's you settle in your identity,' Paisley said, 'and I feel that's very much truth.'

Stephane Domingues
Maceo Paisley (b. August 14, 1985) -- Los Angeles, California, United States

Many of Domingues' subjects said their lives hardly matched their expectations of being 30.

Stephane Domingues
Maria Maltseva (b. May 27, 1984) -- Auckland, New Zealand

'I thought I would be married with two to five children, living in a house with a white picket fence,' said Maria Maltseva, a graphic designer based in Auckland, New Zealand.

Stephane Domingues
Maria Maltseva (b. May 27, 1984) -- Auckland, New Zealand

That hadn't happened at the time of her interview with Domingues, but she was still happy. 'I still get excited about little things, like looking at the sunrise,' Maltseva said.

Stephane Domingues
Maria Maltseva (b. May 27, 1984) -- Auckland, New Zealand

Few people seemed to achieve their childhood ambitions. Leandro Peres Martins dreamed of being a truck driver.

Stephane Domingues
Leandro Peres Martins (b. August 8, 1980) -- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Now the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, native retouches photos for creative ad agencies.

Stephane Domingues
Leandro Peres Martins (b. August 8, 1980) -- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

'When I go out and get drunk, I need two or three days to recover. That is quite new,' Martins said. 'Regarding the mind, I am starting to think much more about my future than I used to.'

Stephane Domingues
Leandro Peres Martins (b. August 8, 1980) -- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

New goals crop up as people depart their 20s. At the time of the interview, Oscar Villarroel Ibarra, of Potosi, Bolivia, hoped to be elected president of his miners' cooperative.

Stephane Domingues
Oscar Villarroel Ibarra (b. July 31, 1979) -- Potosi, Bolivia

His father, also a miner, died of lung cancer. Ibarra wanted to improve working conditions for miners and organise recreational programs for their families.

Stephane Domingues
Oscar Villarroel Ibarra (b. July 31, 1979) -- Potosi, Bolivia

A landmark moment in his life was winning an urban soccer tournament four years in a row. The prize was a living llama.

Stephane Domingues
Oscar Villarroel Ibarra (b. July 31, 1979) -- Potosi, Bolivia

Some things in life can't be planned for. Prerana Deora's parents started 'hunting' for her husband while she was in her first year of psychology studies.

Stephane Domingues
Prerana Deora (b. August, 8, 1983) -- Rajasthan, India

She and her husband only communicated by phone in the six months before the wedding. 'The first hours we spent together were so weird,' Deora said.

Stephane Domingues
Prerana Deora (b. August, 8, 1983) -- Rajasthan, India

'I do not have what I can call a job but I am very happy that I can take care of my home,' Deora said. She said her 'biological clock is ticking,' and she wants to be a mum.

Stephane Domingues
Prerana Deora (b. August, 8, 1983) -- Rajasthan, India

Domingues said he was most excited to go to Japan, for the food and culture.

Stephane Domingues
Satoshi Gotsubo (b. August 21, 1985) -- Kyoto, Japan

In Kyoto, he met Satoshi Gotsubo, who practiced a Japanese acupuncture technique and paid the bills doing logistics for a copy machine company.

Stephane Domingues
Satoshi Gotsubo (b. August 21, 1985) -- Kyoto, Japan

'I used to move on the surface of my life but I feel I am going deeper now,' Gotsubo said. 'I see myself as a collection of many parts that I need to build up.'

Stephane Domingues
Satoshi Gotsubo (b. August 21, 1985) -- Kyoto, Japan

Domingues has met over five dozen 30-year-olds in 25 countries on five continents.

Stephane Domingues
Win Swe (b. June 6, 1980) -- Kalaw, Myanmar

He said meeting people his age around the world made him a little more hopeful.

Stephane Domingues
Win Swe (b. June 6, 1980) -- Kalaw, Myanmar

'(My perception has) really changed from the vision we get in the news, where the world looks gloomy, dark, and full of war,' Domingues said. 'The human being is not as bad.'

Stephane Domingues
Win Swe (b. June 6, 1980) -- Kalaw, Myanmar

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