There’s something very captivating about taking portraits. What makes it exciting? Is it the fact that you’re trying to capture the emotions of the person at that one point? or the fact that you’re reading the facial expression of a stranger, revealing a thousand and one stories by a click of a button? Maybe it’s both and them some.
I don’t know.
I’m not trying to be too philosophical or pretending to be a photographer (which I’m not), so maybe you can help me answer the question. Based on my experience though, the joy of taking portraitures are the process of asking a person to give you that one shot (or in this case many shots). To get to know them in the space of a few seconds, gaining their trust and inevitably be rewarded with something a bit more meaningful than those dull photos of buildings you’ll often find on this website. A portrait shows life (excuse the pun but I wonder if a building can do the same?).
So today, I’m going to share with you my experience of taking photos with children of the Thar Desert near the borders of Pakistan. The photos were taken just before I embarked on a 1.5 hour camel ride across the desert (yup a small desert).
I’ve arrived at this village waiting for our camels to be ready. As I wandered around the village, I’ve stumbled upon a small group of kids playing around in the backyard. One of the boys decided to approach me to see what I was photographing with a large camera. Realising that the child was so curious at the big machine, I asked the boy if I could take a photo (in sign language of course). He gladly posed for a shot whilst his eyes still fixed elsewhere. I showed him the photo on the DSLR screen. His eyes were lit, happy to see the image in the camera.
Sensing that his brother (I’m assuming since she came from the same house) was unto something, one of the siblings emerged from their games to see what I was up to. I happily snapped a few more photos including this candid shot just before I showed them their photos on the screen. They were clearly excited.
With all of the laughter and cheers erupting, the siblings called upon the others to tell them what I was doing. The kids were looking more and more excited. They magically obeyed my request to form a line for the short photo shoot. How adorable!
As I took one too many photos, their patience got the best out of them. Photo tip – don’t make children wait for you. They’ll pull faces at you no matter what ;-P. I can only assume the child on the right recognised the opening and closing of the shutter of the lens, hence pointing it out to the other kids. Yes a camera is a magical thing. I’m still wondering how it works.
The group photo grew larger and everyone was still..excited. They were holding on to their excitement to see the photos on the screen as I asked them for a few more shots.
with all of the commotion..came the sister from a neighbouring house. Her appearance suddenly changed the mood from a rather free and joyous atmosphere to that of a restricted, opportunist scene. It was her (am not trying to make her sound so cruel here..or maybe I am), that suddenly the magic word ‘money’ and ‘rupees’ started falling out. Obviously she knows how things work with tourists. Sensing this magnificent opportunity, the kids were excited for my rather poor change. I resisted for a while, until I started to hand out the small change I’ve got in my pocket. I was happy to give them whatever I had. Happy with the photos and happy to help them. A win-win situation, that’s how I saw it.
Recognising my rather small change (only 5 rupees for her), the girl asked for more and this time for the baby too. I’ve decided to give her a working pen instead (that costed a hell of a lot more, which she checked beforehand) before she let me take more photographs. It was only then, I’ve realised making the mistake of not bringing sweets and stationary items when visiting remote villages. Children will appreciate them.
In the end, this rather random photo opportunity turned out to be a huge success (at least for me). I’ve never expected the kids to be so willingly accepting the request for their photos to be taken without expecting anything back (until the yes, sister came..stop whining old man..). In my previous random shoot in another village, the children cried for money the whole time. I didn’t have that much and there were many of them, so I’ve decided against giving as to appear fair. They ended up chasing me as our van made the move, holding onto my hands. Felt bad but good at the same time, but that’s for another post.
Have you taken a portrait on your travels before? What do you like about them?