“Miss, photo, miss!” the children shouted as I walked through a remote fishing village of Indonesia in the region of Komodo National Park. I didn’t know the itinerary of our three-day sailing trip after leaving Bali and flying to Labuan Bajo, but as soon as I heard that we were stopping on a remote island with lots of children, I grabbed my cameras. I have learned through photography to never be empty-handed.
As a physician, I am used to connecting to others one-one-one but through my photography in the last two years, I have seen a new dimension. It’s as if my camera and I are now a team. I create the relationship and frame the image, the camera captures the moment and once the image is shared with the subject, it’s a lasting bond.
Our brief time on that Indonesian island brought more smiles than I expected. I never imagined bringing so much joy from my lens showing photos and giving copies of the photos that I have taken with them when I have a chance.
My travels have taken me to some of the most remote or challenged areas of the world and I have never encountered a time where it could not bring any joy. We often think that the metal object that we hold in our hands can be a hindrance and deterrent from our photography in travels, but it can be quite the opposite depending on how we handle it.
I’ve seen how my camera can even bring more smiles than I do without it. We are a team and here are some tips for using that to connect with others:
Your connection must be genuine. Build a relationship before you take out your camera and begin shooting.
Use your camera as a gift and not just to take. If possible, give others a photo that you shot of them either instantly or printed and returned to them. At the least, we can always show our camera screen. As you do, look at their faces and appreciate the wonder and joy.
Always be prepared to hear no. And respect it. Humans are all different. Some are severe introverts and others love to be in front of the camera. Accept that not everyone will want to be photographed but many will surprise you. The first time I traveled to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh in November 2017, I met a very shy local Bengali girl who’s home was next to the medical clinic where I was volunteering. She has an unforgettable look with two different eye colors (Waardenburg Syndrome) so I was captivated when I met her. I asked her if I could photograph her and she said no. As much as I badly wanted to capture her look, I had to respect her wishes. But, when I returned in September 2018, it was if she had embraced her beauty. She came right up to me and greeted me welcoming my photography. With patience, there is often a great reward.