Arriving in a new destination is always exciting.
New sights, sounds and smells can all overwhelm the senses. What’s a photographer to do? I see two ways to approach this scenario, which one is right for you will depend on a lot of factors.
Approach #1: Photograph everything that is new and different. In a few days it might not seem weird that there is a hose with a spray nozzle next to your toilet, or that fruit at breakfast becomes an everyday item.
My students first assignment takes that approach. The assignment is titled “Viva La Difference” or celebrate the differences. Take shots of those items that are new and unique, before that freshness wears off. There have been too many times, that I’ve come back from travels with stories, but not the pictures, because I forgot to capture that newness.
Approach #2: Observe and learn. This is a more studied approach, and may help you get a deeper understanding of the culture, before you get trigger happy. There are times when it is good to just experience and absorb the culture, without feeling you have to photograph everything. This can be difficult, but this approach is also good if you’re concerned about safety and security. For example, today our group headed out around the block. Since we tend to attract some attention as a large group, I didn’t want to add to that with all of us having our cameras around our necks. So the students kept their cameras put away, and I tested the waters. I knew I had 11 sets of eyes for security, so I kept my camera out and shot a few things along the way. I got a sense of how people on the street would react to the camera, and see if it would draw a lot of attention. It didn’t.
Later we headed out to a beach that was known for having security. I brought my point and shoot camera. This allowed us to feel more comfortable taking the cameras out and seeing how people reacted in a safe environment. My first impression is that Brazilians are laid back, friendly and not camera shy. Later that evening, a few of us walked around the market and along the boardwalk. I asked a few people if I could take their pictures, or photograph their market stalls. I smiled as I pointed to my camera and got smiles back, the students and I have felt very welcomed by the Brazilians that I have met.