If there’s one thing I was reminded of while in Africa it was my need to “connect in order to create.” That connection may be as simple as an exchange of smiles between me and a young man stacking charcoal or as intricate as an interpreter explaining my every word. As a photographer, my curious nature places me in situations that can be hard to navigate and at times difficult to explain. I found throughout the years that being sincere, respectful and giving a big smile are key ingredients to successfully navigating language barriers.
Here are a few guidelines to try to follow when traveling abroad:
1. Be polite and respectful. Don’t be the ugly tourist with camera.
2. Consider a local guide when traveling abroad. S/he can really help break down the communication barrier.
3. Spend some time getting to know your subject before getting the camera out.
4. If you’re in a town for a few days consider going for a walk without your camera. Scouting an area and connecting with people/shopkeepers can pay dividends when you come back with your camera in tow.
5. Telling a story — Try to tell a story with your images. I avoid shots that simply portray poverty. Taking a keen interest in what a person does for a living or how he or she supports their family is what I’m interested in photographing.
6. Lastly, remember safety is key. I love street photography but it’s very easy to get caught up in a “moment.” Having a travel partner that can watch your back is just common sense.