“Prerana, in India.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.

Being 30, Around the World

When photographer Stephane Domingues turned 30-years-old he wondered how others his age were faring in other parts of the world.

Connecting through Tinder, Instagram and AirBnB, Domingues is making portraits and interviews with fellow tricenarians in thirty countries.

For Polarr, Emily von Hoffmann spoke with him about his travels.


Emily von Hoffmann: Can you describe the concept of this project for our readers?

Stephane Domingues: My project aims at decoding what it means to be a 30-year-old in different countries around the world, trying to understand similarities and differences of one single generation across the globe. Is it the same to be 30 in France, Tanzania, Vietnam, Argentina or New Zealand? How do nationality, culture, and living environment define our own identity? What does our everyday life look like? What are our values? What is important for us? How do we analyze our past and present? How do we see our country and the world we’re living in?

SD: What’s new [since you turned 30]?
LPM: When I go out and get drunk, I need 2 or 3 days to recover — That is quite new (smiles). That is for the “physical changes”. Regarding the mind, I am starting to think much more about my future than I used to.
“Leandro, in Brazil.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.
SD: What is your proudest achievement?
BB: As a proud member of Hamer tribe and a newly adult man, I spent time into the bushes after the bull jumping ceremony and before getting married. During this time, I was only allowed/able to drink blood and milk from the goats in order to feed me. I am really proud of this few weeks of my life.
“Bori, in Ethiopia.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.

EvH: Why 30? What appeals to you about that age specifically?

SD: I think that I witnessed among some of my friends (and in my own personal life) some quarter life crises. Getting to one’s 30s is quite an important step, especially in Western countries. Many people start to get married and have children, which is the beginning of a new life.

SD: Where did you think you would be living by now?
OVI: I always thought that I would stay in the town I was born, Potosi, close to my family and to my mother. If I would go my mum would miss me too much and cry… I have always wanted to be close to her. Nevertheless, if I would have been [in the] military, I would have had to move to Sucre or to the capital (La Paz).
“Oscar, in Bolivia.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.
MM: 10 years ago, At 20, I guess I pictured myself like everybody else, I thought I would be married with 2-5 children, living in a house with a white picket fence. At 20 I just quit my job in hospitality (I used to be barman), and decided to do something else. I have always loved art so I decided to do something with it. I applied and got a scholarship to study graphic design.
I am not married yet, do not have children either but I am happy! When it comes to my job, I do what I wanted to do at the time which is working with printable stuff… cause I like paper and books. I love the feeling of holding something in my hands, and the smell of library books.
SD: How did you decide to do [your current] job?
FGA: As a child I dreamt to become a doctor. I was going to school and was staying at my aunt’s house (the school was close to her place) but I suddenly had to stop school and come back to the island because she died. I started to be a fisherman around the age of 17 — it was the most common way to make money on the island… I was first fishing over the bridge next to my house with friends, and I now own my canoe and go out to the sea almost everyday.
“Faruk, in Mozambique.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.

EvH: Was this your first time visiting most of these countries?

SD: Even though I travelled a lot before this trip, it was my first visit to most of the countries. Over the last 15 months, I have travelled and shared the life of more than 65 people in 25 countries. I think that I wasn’t particularly surprised because I didn’t expect anything specific. But of course it is amazing to create a connection with people with whom you do not even share language; in a remote village of Ethiopia or Myanmar, for example. Or to see that your life is very similar to the life of someone who lives on the other side of the world, in Argentina or Japan.

SD: What are the main events that [shape] the world you are living in?
TNA: There is not one event that come to my mind but it is more the fact that Vietnam made it easier for people to travel abroad and opened their boarders over the last decade. I really think that it is an important step forward. The Tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 really moved me… I also think that the way Japanese handled the situation should be an example. They way they stuck together to overcome such a nightmare was really great.
“Tu, in Vietnam.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.
MP: I used to write these letters to myself when I was 8 years old, and I would read them every 8 years… So I wrote one when I was 8, 16 and 24, and the next one will be at 32. The idea was to read it 8 years later and to see if my younger self would approve of who I became 8 years later. From my second letter, I set my goals in life:
1) Choose how I spend my day
2) Meet new people
3) Express myself openly
If, when reading my previous letters I thought I would think I went too far away, to a point that the previous version of myself would disapprove, I would refocus.
“Maceo, in the United States.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.
SD: What are the main events that [shape] the world you are living in?
PD: I am thinking about an awful event that happened in December 2012… The rape and murder of a young woman in a bus near New Delhi. It was really awful and I could not get it out of my mind for long. I know that rapes happen everywhere but this one was just….
SD: Do you feel old, or still young?
WM: I feel surprisingly old … or just older than younger people. When you go out, at a concert, and everyone is still full of energy, [I’m already thinking] of my bed. I also consider that I’m older mentally speaking — this is the silver lining because it means being more mature.
“Warren, in South Africa.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.
SD: What are the main events that [shape] the world you are living in?
MC: The first thing that comes to my mind is the end of the Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1989. I still have in mind the demonstrations in the streets and I remember that we would take the streets with flags saying “NO”… Because there was a referendum and Chileans were asked if they wanted the military government (Pinochet) to carry on. It was a huge fight for democracy and the “NO” from a political campaign funded by the left wing.
Under Pinochet’s government, people were scared to express themselves because of repression… there were curfews… Freedom of speech just did not exist.
When I moved to Patagonia, it was very interesting to see that over here, people do not hate Pinochet as people do in the North. The main reason being that Pinochet’s government helped the region to be much less isolated by developing infrastructures (builing the Carretera Austral for instance).
“Magdalena, in Chile.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.

EvH: Your longterm plan is to produce portraits and interviews of 30 people in 30 countries — did you feel any pressure to identify people who would ‘represent’ their country in a way? What were some challenges, creatively or logistically?

SD: I never tried to look for someone who could represent his or her country because I think it is just impossible and would create a bias in my project. I honestly tried to meet random people. When I am asked if my project is social research, I always say no and define it as a meeting between two human beings at a certain moment in time.

Creatively and logistically, there were a lot of challenges because I always adapted myself to my host. I never staged any picture or influenced their choices, because the idea was to show a scene in their life as it really is. I used many different means to contact people, to ensure that their profiles would be different — through Facebook, by meeting randomly in the street, through friends of friends, Couchsurfing, Airbnb, Tinder, Instagram.

SD: What is your best memory?
WS: Without any doubt, the day I got married. I was 17 years old… the ceremony took place in my village. It was a rather small traditional Burmese wedding with around 300 guests (Win and her family both have big close families). During that day, we pay respect to the monks, walk all around the village and offer lunch to our guests. I think it Is the happiest of my life because I could live with the person I was in love with and because it was the beginning of a new life, working together and building a family.
“Win, in Myanmar.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.
SD: What’s new [since you turned 30]?
YT: I really feel that being 30 is major turning point in one’s life. Something is built up finally, after a long succession of efforts. In my case, I started a workshop when I turned 30 about organizing the body, listening situation sensitivity, listening music and eating food. At 30, I can express myself more clearly and take decisions with less hesitation.
“Yohei, in Japan.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.
SD: What is your proudest achievement?
SLM: I am so proud to be able to provide some my children with schooling. Actually, 2 of them are [now] attending school. It is a big step forward for us — I did not have the chance to go to school myself. It gives our family a real hope for a better future… My children will be more likely to have a job if they are educated.
“Sindani, in Tanzania.” Image courtesy of Stephane Domingues.

EvH: Can you share with us any plans for future work, on this project or another?

SD: Right now my plan is to finish this project. I still need to travel to 5 other countries to reach the total of 30, and hopefully be able to finance the printing of the book on Kickstarter. I have to admit that it requires all my energy and I haven’t really been thinking about another project just yet. Although, many people I interviewed asked me if I had any intention of doing “Being 40 in the world.”


Interview by Emily von Hoffmann and Polarr — Pro Photo Editor Made for Everyone. Follow Polarr on Twitter and try our products.

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