"" Writer's Wanderings: The Travel Photographer In Most Of Us - Recording The Culture

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Travel Photographer In Most Of Us - Recording The Culture

Every country has a culture of its own and even regions of a country will differ in cultural habits and traditions. These are great opportunities to learn and remember and share with others through pictures. What things give you the cultural flavor of where you visit?

People, their dress, their faces, their daily activity, their celebrations. 

It's not always easy to capture people unless they are actually performing for you on a tour or trying to sell you something like this beautiful little girl in Quito, Ecuador. I gave her a dollar and asked her mom if it was all right to photograph her. She nodded yes when she saw me gesture with my camera. After the picture, I bought several of those colorful scarves you see in the background. The hat, I think is significant of the region the ladies selling the scarves came from but I was never able to confirm that. Mom had on a green hat which leads me to believe that it either meant she was an adult or that she was a merchandiser.

I have been knows to hold the camera at my side or in front of me and click several times hoping to catch a picture of some of the colorful characters or quiet people who pass us by in some places where it wouldn't be possible to stop and ask. Whatever you do though, respect the people of that country by checking with your tour guide or concierge in the hotel to see if picture taking of locals is okay. In Dubai, we were asked specifically not to take pictures of people. I ended up taking pictures of some manikins who were modeling local clothing at a shop.

Homes are an expression of culture and condition.

I remember the first time I visited the Caribbean islands and saw some of the poor conditions of the homes. I had to chuckle though because no matter how ramshackle, they each had a beautifully carved mahogany wood door that would cost a fortune in the States.

In China we actually had the privilege of visiting the home of a farmer and got to see how sparsely they lived. The home was actually part of a small compound where his children lived as well. They were surrounded by fields of cotton and their yards were planted with vegetables which they used for food. It was in stark contrast to the homes we saw in the south of France and in Monaco--make that yachts in Monte Carlo.

Places of worship.

Churches, temples, mosques, etc. are all a reflection of the culture of the area as well. I was getting bored visiting so many churches in France until one guide explained that the reason they were so ornately decorated with stained glass and statues and frescoes and the like was because back in the day, that was the way history and Bible stories were taught.

In Dubai, we had the privilege of visiting a mosque and hearing about some of the practices of Muslim. The tour was led by two ladies from Great Britain who had married Muslim men and converted. It was all very interesting and certainly a great picture taking opportunity to capture the culture.


 From the high speed Autobahn in Germany to the bicycles in Amsterdam. Bullet trains in Japan to camels in Egypt. Transportation is usually quite mixed into the culture of the country. China had mostly bikes at one time but now bikes fight with car, truck and bus traffic in Beijing. Motorcycles are the main mode of transportation in Viet Nam and you see herds of them on the road.

The most unusual scene I captured however was when we were waiting for our tour bus to pick us up at a hotel in Egypt where we'd spent the afternoon. We were waiting under the canopy and suddenly realized a young man was galloping down the street on a camel in the midst of all the motorized traffic!

Vive La Difference!

That's probably not good French but how wonderful this world of ours is with such a diversity of people and cultures. If only we could learn to appreciate our differences instead of fight over them.

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