I have never been one to take a lot of pictures of people when I travel. With my point and shoot, I could never get close enough to take compelling photos without making myself (and likely the subject) feel uncomfortable. I always felt like I was imposing. Even if I started chatting with the locals, I hesitated to bring out my camera for fear that it would create a divide between us – and “us” and a “them.” Rather, I just wanted to blend in.
All of that changed on my recent trip to Nepal. I was traveling with a “real” camera for the first time – a DSLR that I purchased in August for the primary purpose of my trip, which was a three-week photography trek led by travel photographer Peter West Carey. In addition to the kit lens, I also invested in a telephoto zoom lens, which turned out to be my most valuable purchase.
While my historical discomfort with photographing people was alive and well during my first couple days in Kathmandu, I soon got past it and found that I absolutely loved taking pictures of people. Part of this likely had to do with the lack of interesting and easily photographable architecture in the city. And part of it likely had to do with the fact that I enjoyed people-watching more than almost anything else in Kathmandu. The city itself was chaotic and polluted and not particularly attractive. Sure, every now and then a majestic temple popped out of the crowded landscape, but I could rarely get the shot I wanted due to a plethora of motorbikes and scooters standing in the way. And with the addition of my telephoto lens, I could capture plenty of candid shots without feeling like I was imposing.
So what did I do? I ended up taking a lot of pictures of people. Little kids playing with pigeons. Kids playing with each other. Girls laughing together. Vendors making sales. Vendors looking bored, waiting for their next sale. Young women making necklaces of marigolds. Elderly women making necklaces of marigolds. Elderly men sitting around talking or perhaps people-watching themselves.
These were the many faces of Kathmandu and these are the faces I will remember more than anything else.
What do you like to photograph the most when you travel? People or things?