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Over the years, and after many tours, I’ve developed a simple, but fairly full proof method of capturing the various lifestyles of the people whose world I am visiting. I make every effort not to offend, harass or intrude on their privacy. Most never even know they are having their picture taken, and when they do they usually giggle with pleasure. The #1 tip is that I drive everywhere we go whenever possible---avoiding in-country flights which will get me to my destination in ‘jiff time’ but cause me to miss the very “essence” of the world I’m visiting and trying to learn about---it’s people! You can tell a great deal about peoples’ lifestyles, feelings, health, economy and their world’s general well-being by their body language, expressions, even by the look you receive as you pass by in your van, as you are obviously a tourist, an outsider, a stranger. While, for the most part, the wildlife is my main goal to photograph, I’ve come to love my hours on the road driving through the countryside, cities, farms and villages, with my finger on my camera’s trigger firing away. I never really know exactly what I’ve captured until I’m sitting in my office in front of my monitor or (yes, I still use it!), my lightbox. Some of the images are classic, some absolute junk, some unwittingly sad, such as a funeral procession or obvious poverty, some adorable, some hilariously funny, but wherever I am in the world they are all about one thing----LIFE. Whenever possible .. "Capture the Essence".
An added benefit to this style of photographing and all that you learn about the world around you is how much you learn about yourself.
The image, Lady with a Smile, is a perfect example of my unconscious efforts to capture ‘the essence’ of what I saw, and felt about Madagascar and its people. Awareness of these types of images and why I take them doesn’t really even occur to me until weeks or months later, if at all. But she’s classic….look at her face… even with no teeth, her smile is gorgeous, sincerely genuine, jovial and welcoming. Her eyes sparkled and danced as she spoke in a raspy, but sing-song dialect, none of which I understood other than I knew my camera and I were welcome. She had an ‘impish’ way about her that I continually recognized in most of the children I encountered as we wandered about Madagascar.
The end conclusion which comes to my mind is that yes, this is a 3rd world country, and yes, poverty is prevalent, but there is an underlying richness about their lives so many of us miss. Maybe it’s living around all that diverse, natural scenic beauty. They certainly don’t care about the price of oil, who is going to be the next US president, or what brand of automobile they should buy this year. If we woke up everyday of our lives to the wonders of their mountains, desserts, seashores, cloud and or rainforests, I’m sure we’d all have a different outlook on everyday life. Even their rice paddies are beautiful!!
Photo Researchers, Editors, and Publishers:
As stated in previous newsletters, at no obligation to you, send me a “want list” of images you are looking for that may coincide with a trip I’m about to take, or have recently taken, and I’ll do my very best to seek out that subject and shoot it with your request in mind. This may save you some expense, give me a specific mission and possibly a sale of that image. It’s a ‘win, win situation’!
A quick reminder that my library of 35mm original slides houses approximately 75,000 images, and my digital library presently holds over 41,000 (and growing-hourly)!