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Travel photography: making a record or hunting for novelty

俞祎君 Aggi Yu 2018-04-10 18:40

Travel photography is often interpreted as "a one-time hunting for novelty." Many people know about Robert Kappa because his words "if your pictures are not good enough, it is because you are not close enough.Chris, a shutterbug, has her own reflections on travel photography.

Pay respect to local culture 

When travelling for photography, a landscape photographer will take many tools such as tripod, filter, track or even UAV. However, if ordinary tourists also go to these destinations, Chris suggests they take a small camera with them and the best time for them to go out for travel photography is in the afternoon or after dinner. Even in Tibet, if a girl with a camera can say in Tibetan hello "Zahi" to an elderly Tibetan man before filming, the old man will kindly smile to her. 


Chris also said, "I once met an old Tibetan woman who was praying. When I took a photo behind her, her daughter ran over and asked me to delete it at once. But when in India, it's easy to see a kid running over and voluntarily put himself into your line of sight for you to shoot, even if the camera is switched off and hanging around your neck. However, people in Iran, I’ve found, are very resistant to your shooting. When I’m out and about and my headscarf starts to fall down, all the girls around will come and remind me to fix my headscarf because they are so conservative. Moreover, when I was at breakfast in the hotel during that journey, I met many Middle Eastern female guests who wear covered from head to toe. Women put the cup into their headscarves when drinking water in order to avoid their necks being seen by others. In such a situation, if you look at her for a few minutes, you must be a little bit embarrassed." 

The indigenous cultures in different place are different, so is the degree of their willingness towards shooting. Some people would think, “I spent so much money travelling here, so I must bring back some pictures”. Whether you plan to be a “shooting bandit” or to pay proper respect to local culture is your own choice. But I choose respect. We visited a local family in Iran where girls were so beautiful wearing bikinis at home. They also smoked tobacco and painted their nails, but these pictures I will just keep for myself because I can’t undermine their trust.” Chris said. 

Humanistic photography 

Chris has an understanding of human photography: in addition to the depth of the photos’ contents, the length of the shooting time is also of great importance. She said, “To be honest, travel photography is not the real epitome of humanity. You may just visit a right place once, and at that moment you take photos exactly with not only good equipment but a good opportunity, which is called travel documentary photos. Besides, light is an important part in humanistic photography. Once in order to interview a Tibetan Buddhist monk, a National Geographic photographer lived with him for a long time. Thus, such a series of photos can be called humanities. They have to be with the subject for a long time.” 


Actually, the most famous ‘portraits of humanity’ are with some intention of hunting for novelty, as a consequence, in one period, many people were so crazy about North Korea. Chris made a clarification about the stereotype of India; she said, “Most people don’t know much about a place,but after appreciating photos, they would like to ask some questions concerning. When we went, we spent three days staying around Ganges River, but we never once saw the exotic sights we expected, only seeing some grandpas take a bath.” 


Seeing is believing. Chris recounted, “India has been in constant development. Those criticism and photos about India which are posted on the network may describe the old India. The WeChat article concerning India might be the combination of many old materials with the aim of telling you not to go to India. In India, next to the temple where the cremation ceremony was held, I saw that there was a fence all along the water. The water was so clean that you can see lots of young visitors from Japan playing in the river or jumping into the Ganges River to take a bath.” 


VANTAGE: What was the one shot that got away during your travels? 

SHI: When I was in Sertar County, I took almost no photos. It was my first time to visit this plateau region and my altitude sickness was quite severe. Then on the second day, I could just sit in the mandala with my camera and tripods. I turned the ISO up and quickened the speed of my camera. When someone came to kowtow or passed by, I would took a photo. And the place of taking this photo can just be guessed by those people who have been to Sertar or know about these buildings of Sertar. Then I know the level of taking photos will plummet if the photographer isn’t in good health. 


VANTAGE: What is the position of travel and photography in your life? And what is the connection between travel and photography? 

SHI: Photography is my hobby which allows me to balance my work and life. I’m not an occupational photographer, but there is no despair in photography. It is because I haven’t decided to make photography my main business that I would like to spend more money and time enjoying the process of travelling. 

VANTAGE: Where will you go next time? Where is your next destination and why? 

Chris : Israel and Turkey. With the visa policy getting better and better, many places will soon be occupied by Chinese tourists. Besides, there are many irresistible sights may disappear in the future. The polar bear in the picture is very cute but a little upset, because it doesn’t have anything to eat. Due to the global warming, the ice and snow melt quickly. There is no ice between islands, which results in the phenomenon that the bear may have eaten all the food in one place but can’t move to another place. Now there is also a severe condition that many polar bears die of starvation. But what we can do at the moment is to protect them and to see them before they disappear. 


VANTAGE: Have you had any mentors who have guided you thus far? 

Chris : I have a lot of tutors. The peers around me or those people who are a little older than me all work very hard and continually focus on taking photos of the same theme. Their spirits are so admirable and from that I can learn a lot . 

VANTAGE: If you were to recommend a destination for everyone, where would you recommend? 

SHI: If he/she is a green hand in photography, I recommend Nepal. My two reasons being: people in Nepal won't resist photo taken, and they won't be as enthusiastic as Indians, either. The other is that Nepal is a place that can meet all your requirements of scenery, people, places of interest, animals as well as extreme sports. As a result, when paying a ten-day visit here, you will have a lot of unforgettable experiences and take many excellent photos. 

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