I recently read this article on photographing people while traveling that I think is extremely relevant in today’s photo-and-social-media-obsessed world. We’re getting used to taking pictures anywhere, and even when being sensitive to the privacy concerns, it’s hard not to get other people in your photos when you’re at popular tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal. But when you’re traveling and come across a person/persons that you’d love to capture an image of, what’s the most respectful way to proceed?
In 2014, I volunteered in a Ugandan village with the organization ROWAN, taking photos of widows and orphans with AIDS for their sponsorship program. Here it was understood that I was a photographer, and I had members of the nonprofit alongside me to speak with the women and children (this was an amazing volunteer experience I’ll be sharing about in my upcoming posts!).
Over the course of two months, I backpacked across India last summer (read more about India here) and felt the need to document EVERYTHING. India is one of the most beautiful, culturally rich countries I’ve ever been too. Everywhere you turn there’s a potential for a great photograph – from the intricate architecture of the military forts to the colorful saris and jewelry that adorn the women. It’s a photographer’s paradise. I often felt that I didn’t need to ask people for pictures, especially with so many of the locals taking pictures with their phones, it felt “normal” just to snap my own pictures. However, after reading this article from AFAR, I realize in some instances, even though I was not rude or aggressive, I could have been more respectful of an individual’s desire for privacy.
In the photo above, I was on a walking tour with my hostel and our guide asked the women pictured if they would mind their photo being taken. They happily said yes. Sometimes people will say no, and that’s okay – they have every right to decline. But in my experiences, most people love getting their photo taken – especially kids. Not everyone owns a fancy camera, cell phone or even a mirror, so the chance to see themselves in a photo is really special to them. You may even make their day!