I love markets… For their boundless vibrancy. Their towering displays of food. The sense of community. The people watching potential.
As tempting as it is, I try not to take too many portraits of people unawares. I’ll snap a few discreet, surreptitious shots but mainly I’ll ask – striking up a conversation first. Otherwise, I’ll just focus on photos not taken.
Like the man selling raw animal hides from the hood of his pickup truck. Or the woman offering a bouquet of peacock feathers, sold to spruce up felt hats. The travelling salesman, sporting a natty headset and speaker, around which a curious, countryside crowd have gathered. A young girl offering technicoloured ice cream from a styrofoam box, bobbing gently, her baby bundled in a shawl on her back. A well-wrinkled elder, presiding over vials and vats of mysterious medicines, and sprigs of aromatic herbs.
Pigs, fish, cuy slow cooking over charcoal; wafting smoke and sizzling sounds. The three dozen bananas still on their thick stork; a perfect handle for carrying. Cries of prices, louder as midday draws closer. Twenty oranges for a dollar! The latest cure for 21st stress! Potatoes, corn, carrots, all the fresh goodness you could need for the perfect sopita.
Stripey ponchos. Plain ponchos. Chequered ponchos. At 6’1″, I feel like an awkward giant amongst old ladies bent double.
I like your comment about generally not taking photos of people without their permission…. I’m the same, and I have relatively few people shots as a result. It’s an issue I really struggled with. Sometimes I feel like I was the one who missed out because of my own ethics. After all, no-one seemed to have a problem with taking photos of me without my permission! Please get a photo of the bowler hats and fat skirts in Bolivia – sadly I never did, for the very reason you describe. Sarah
It’s a tough one. I feel pretty self conscious sticking a camera in someone’s face, particularly amongst these indigenous cultures. If I can get just a few pictures I’m happy, as I like taking detail pictures too – food especially!
On several occasions, I’ve explained that the photos I’ve taken are to show people back home, taking some time to talk about how different the cultures are, and how interesting and colourful everything is here in comparison to Europe. Personally, I like to have a nice association with a photo, and I guess I’m just uncomfortable with grabbing a shot and moving on – without at least trying to make some kind of connection. If I do want to be discreet, a wide angle lens can be useful as it often looks like you’re taking a photo of something completely different.
But it’s true, with the advent of camera phones – even cheap phones have a camera, and everyone has a phone – the perception of taking photos is changing I think.