“All these movements they do with their hands,” Valle said. “They’re trying to keep themselves down (on the seafloor), move forward or stay in place.”
The Badjao are a tribe of nomadic sea dwellers who have lived off the shore of northeast Borneo for more than 200 years. They are a stateless people with no nationality in the traditional sense, residing instead in boats and living off the sea. As highly skilled divers, the Badjao are able to walk along the seafloor hunting for fish and pearls.
Valle sought to photograph the Badjao as part of a larger project about stateless people that has taken him to places such as Kosovo, China, South Sudan and the Palestinian territories.
The soft light and the way the Badjao pose in the water reflect the “imaginary stateless nation” Valle wanted to convey, causing the viewer to examine the relationship between place and identity.
“It’s abstract,” Valle said. “The concept of nations has always been malleable.”
Guillem Valle is a Spanish photographer. He is one of the founders of Me-Mo Magazine.