I don’t believe there could have been a better moment in my life to start experimenting with photography than my trip to India. I already had an inkling that I preferred taking photographs of people to scenery and this experience allowed me to really explore this idea.
The relationship with tourists is a funny thing in India. I honestly had assumed globalization had killed any excitement that seeing a Westerner might bring. I was completely wrong. Everywhere we went people openly stared at us, smiled, waved, took photographs of us on the sly and came up asking to take photographs with us. I likely posed 100 times with Indian strangers for a photograph on their camera. And the first question was always the same, “You come from?”. It was overwhelming at times. But it was also amazing. There was something sweet to the fact that even if they had seen foreigners on television and tourist before, they were still excited to meet other people from around the world.
I also quickly picked up that their open enthusiasm and interest in us made it perfectly natural to do the same. That is when I just began going up to people asking to take their photo. No one ever said no. I might not be that good at reading their culture norms, but it didn’t even seem that people thought what I was doing was strange. I am not sure if I will ever be in a country again where it is completely natural to see a stranger staring at you and you walk up to them and ask to take their photograph.
I took a lot more photos of people than this, sometimes a couple of the same person. They would pose and then go about their business and I would snap a few more. I just couldn’t resist. I love some of the stories that came with these photos too. When I was snapping the forth picture down of the woman in the white and green saris, her friend began yelling stop, me too, me too. She also wanted to be in the photo. But then it was really cute because she was having so much fun she never did stand still and look at the camera. That was thing, I think people would often find it a compliment to ask to have their photo taken. More than once I had people thanking me for asking to take their photo.
Then there is the picture of the two young girls giggling. One of my favorites. We were in a less touristy town when we ran into this group of teenage girls. They were so excited and nervous when talking to me, the one girl could just not stop laughing. At one point I was surrounded by about 6 of them and one girl reached out and touched my hand. I said to the group would you like to feel my skin and immediately I had six hands on mine, all curious what my white skin felt like. Then a girl brushed my hair with her hand and I offered to let them touch my hair. It’s an odd thing to have six girls find your hair fascinating. It is also humbling. I traveled half way across the world and people greeted me openly with excitement and kindness. I have returned deeply grateful for the smiles, the head nods and the conversations I had.