The Traveling Lens: Candid Shots or Full Immersion?

I came across a great article today by  Lola Akinmade regarding travel photography. (Take a look here: She discusses that there is much to be gained from asking to take someone’s picture and the interacting that follows with the request. Akinmade says that fear of rejection and the shame of rejection are tied into ego.  You might receive a very public “No!” but that is okay. It’s not always about you. (I am paraphrasing her a bit here.)  But, she continues, it is worthwhile. If you see her photographs of people from around the world, you’d agree with her.

So what about my own focus? My own photography journey?

When I am taking photos of people in a public setting, I’d rather hide in the potted fern next to the exit. I love taking candid shots that are free of the “I’m ready for my close-up, best angle guardedness” that seeps into peoples’ faces when they know they are being photographed.  When people have to be reminded to “find your window” or “say cheese” they are not being their authentic selves. They are trying to look their best for the camera.

That said, what am I really doing? Is this about my comfort level? Am I controlling how  the situation or person is being documented? In trying to get that openness framed, am I taking power away from the subject by not allowing them relationship with me? What am I afraid of getting in contact with,  me or them?

Some of it could have to do with distraction from the intention on the photographer’s part. If the intent is to get the photo, then conversation and interaction might be seen as a detour, rerouting their goal. Also, if people are aware there is a camera pointed in their direction, maskings/personas occur. The subject is no longer just the subject but an outward projection of what the subject hopes to convey of themselves visually.

Akinmade does a great job of moving us beyond the mechanics of point and click and she asks of us, as photographers of all levels of ability, why we are there and what we are afraid of. She suggests we take a look at our own motivations as we try to frame the shot.

How do you photograph your travels? Are they peopled or landscaped? What’s the most uncomfortable you have become when taking a photo while traveling?

Paris: Latin Quarter 2013

Regarding the photo above: Imagine if I had asked permission to photograph the expert  French waiters instead of taking a picture of the cafe at a remove. I have the memory of the place, but no intimacy or warmth of experience expressed visually. This photo shares setting, but doesn’t give the viewer any way to anchor their gaze. By the way, the mussels in a cream dill sauce were amazing that day. Best solo lunch of my life!

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