Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

The eyes of a tribal man pierce through the bright primary colors painted on his face.

The framed photograph of him is part of an exhibit entitled, "Tribes of Papua New Guinea," located in the atrium of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The exhibit will be on display until March 23, according to DeAllous Smith, a spokesman for the airport.

"Art enthusiasts who view these images will discover that the stories of these people are told through facial expressions, traditional headdresses, necklaces and other garments," said Airport Art Program Manager Katherine Dirga. "This exhibit provides a photographic snapshot of the group's rich heritage and undeniable pride."

Booker Williams, an accounts payable manager for the Department of Aviation at Hartsfield-Jackson, was studying the images on display.

He said the photography was nicely captured.

"I wouldn't mind taking one of them home myself," said Williams.

Rita Kessler, of Alpharetta, was at the airport picking up a friend.

While looking at a photograph, Kessler smiled and noted how unique the piece was.

"It reminds me of what I would see if I would take a trip to Africa," she said.

Jennifer Kilberg, the professional photographer behind the images, said she has always been attracted to color and different materials, and has included them in her photography. She said this is one of the reasons she chose to capture various tribes of Papua New Guinea with her camera.

"I love exciting adventures, indigenous tribes and love color," she said.

Kilberg said she also has an interest in anthropology.

She explained that she graduated from Boston University in 1994, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design and a minor in anthropology.

"The time I spent in Papua New Guinea opened my eyes to the value of every natural element as a medium for expression," she said. "In a world of change, the faces of Papua New Guinea remain ancient and unchanged."

Kilberg said she photographed various individuals that took part in the Mount Hagen Festival, where hundreds of tribes of different languages gather and show off decoration from head to toe, including wigs, body painting, feather headdresses, necklaces and ear and nose rings.

Smith, the airport spokesman, added that the festival includes musical presentations, cultural activities and an agricultural fair. There are more than 700 tribes in Papua New Guinea, he added.

Kilberg explained that her work in Papua New Guinea lasted about a month.

Instead of a communication gap between her and her subjects, Kilberg said she was intrigued by the tribes and developed relationships with tribes, such as the Huli Tribe.

Members of the Huli Tribe, also known as the Huli clan, wear human hair wigs adorned with various colorful bird feathers, according to the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority's web site,

She said that although she didn't speak their language, she befriended tribes by touching their hair and showing off a big smile. This made the indigenous people feel comfortable and as a result they became open to photographs, she added.

"Everything just worked out," she said.

Kilberg said when she began photographing tribes during the festival, she noticed there was too much activity going on in each image. She said she decided that she wanted the pictures to be about the people's faces.

This is the reason why each photograph in the exhibit displays close-ups of people's faces, said Kilberg.

"I wanted the viewers' eyes to stay within the portrait," said the photographer.

Airport Art Program Manager Dirga said there are 30 photographs displayed in the exhibit. The photography was shot on film, she added.

"We often exhibit work with a human interest aspect," said Dirga. "Airports bring together people from all countries and with many different customs, maybe for just a few hours, so this environment is a good one for exploring those differences in a respectful way."

For more information about Photographer Jennifer Kilberg, visit