© 2014 Wazari Wazir | Portrait of an Old Man at Bhaktapur | Nepal | 50 mm
“I am a nutty traveler. I never hide myself during I am photographing or traveling. I interact with the community whom I go to visit. I give them time to understand me and I take time to understand them. In any place you will find children and dogs first to welcome you. They will follow you and you have to win their hearts.
If they accept you then the community will accept you. Documentary/travel/street whatever photography I am doing I always know I have to respect people and their thought. If someone refused me take picture I accept it with respect. I take photography when I feel the person is easy with me and in the time when I got an affirmative signal.
After taking picture I show them and heard their comment. Sometime I take print with me to show them, surprise them. Small interactions make you confident as a communicator and a photographer. It is important to be trustable when you are a photographer. A small thanks and a big smile can win many hearts.”
- Gmb Akash -
I think the quote from GMB Akash, an award winning Bangladesh Documentary Photographer has said it all. To those of you reading this post and hoping to get some magic formula on how to photograph strangers will be disappointed. First thing first, there must be something interesting about a strangers that you met that make you wanted to photographed them, I don’t think each and everyone that you stumble on the street are photogenic or worthy of photography. Yes, I know, each and everyone of us are unique in our very own way but that doesn’t mean each and everyone of us or strangers that you met are worthy to be photographed.
About the photograph an old man above, what attract me about them is their unique face, an old man or women always have a great face to photograph, the wrinkles on their face has a lot of stories to tell. But the thing that attract me the most about them is their traditional Nepali Topi or headgear known as “Dhaka” or “Dhaka Topi”. A portrait of them wearing a “Dhaka” is what separate their portraiture from anyone else, most people who have travel a lot will immediately recognise that, they were a portrait of Nepali people.
The first thing that you need to do in order to take a formal portrait of them looking direct at your camera is to approach them. Start with a simple greeting, it is best to learn on how to greet a stranger with their own national language, for Nepali, just say “Namaste”, smile or simply say hi, tell them what you like about them, show them some respect, or if they currently doing something, show them that you are interested in what they are doing, ask them some question. The most important thing is, talk to them, communicate with them.
Talking or communicating with them will not always give you a license to photograph their face, but most of the times, a stranger will feel at ease once they get to know you, your interest and your passion on why you wanted to photograph them. Some of the strangers that you met can speak good English, some of them them can’t, but you can always use a universal language, a hand gesture, just show them you camera and they will understand.
© 2014 Wazari Wazir | Tamang Women With Her Baby During Losar Celebration | Nagarkot | Nepal | 24 mm
Sometimes I spent a few minutes talking to a stranger without ever talking a single photograph of them. On our way to Nagarkot from Kathmandu, we stop by at a small village, there was some kind of a celebration there and I ask someone there about it, what’s it all about and he told me that they, the Tamang people were celebrating “Losar” or Tibetan New Year. I spent more than fifteen minutes talking with him and totally forget to take his photograph.
Anyway, I did not regret because that simple conversation with him open doors for me to photographed few people there, like the photograph of the women with her beautiful baby in the photograph above. They welcome us to celebrate with them, asking us to enjoy the foods that they prepared for the festival and also dance with them.
© 2014 Wazari Wazir | Me With Tibetan People at Pokhara | Nepal
Actually the key point here is that, you need to ask, the worst thing that you will get is No. Some people are too shy, they refused but if you never try, the answer will always be no. Even if taking a photograph of a strangers is not your interest, talking to them while traveling will definitely enriched your experience. You might never know that maybe some of them or their friends or relatives have been to your country, the only way to know about it is to strike a conversation with them and most of them are more than willing to share their story.
There you have it. There is no magic recipe, the only key point here is communication. Talk to them, communicate with them and give them respect that they deserved.