I have never been drawn to any genre of photography more than people portraits. Travel portraits, to be specific. From early days I have been strongly influenced by the work of National Geographic photographers, especially Steve McCurry and William Albert Allard. I would spend hours pouring over the images of exotic locations and the people that inhabited them. I was entranced and wanted nothing more than to travel to these places myself…and perhaps bring back a few interesting images of my own.
My wishes had come true since then, to a certain extent. Over the past few years, I have been lucky enough to travel to Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. I have visited Nepal, India and Turkey. I have done volunteer work in Honduras and Nicaragua, as you may have learned from my previous post. And during those travels, I have taken a good number of portrait images. I cherish those above all the others.
I find portrait photography to be the most challenging form out there. To capture that something special and unique about a stranger you may have just met is an incredibly hard feat. Travel puts you in the middle of a completely different culture, different language, different ways of living. You and your camera may be viewed as invasions of privacy, a way to miscommunicate your travel experience in a negative way. It’s incredibly difficult to break that barrier when asking for a portrait.
To make matters more difficult, I am actually a very shy person when it comes to taking portraits of strangers on the street. This has been my biggest challenge so far when it comes to photography. It’s not the technical stuff, not post processing, not even getting up at four thirty in the morning to catch the sunrise. It’s actually asking permission for a photo. I have missed many incredible opportunities over the years because I was too nervous and apprehensive to ask permission to photograph someone.
I like to believe that it’s gotten a little easier over the past few years, but to be honest, I am not so sure. I have read numerous articles and books on travel photography and how to approach strangers for a photo. Most of the advice out there is universal: be courteous, be respectful, be kind. Smile. Don’t sneak around like a paparazzi; politely and openly ask for a photo. But it still remains a huge challenge for me to do all that. Considering how much anxiety the whole process costs me, it’s a miracle I’ve taken the many portraits that I have so far.
I’d like to share some of them with you. These are strictly my travel portraits from the places I’ve visited over the years. I have a decent collection of portraits of friends as well, but that is a topic for another day.
Let me know your thoughts on this and feel free to share your own work! I’d love to see it 🙂