I take pictures. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

Your Camera Can Be Your Ticket To Meeting People Around The World !

China

When I think of my long photography career, the things that have brought me the most joy over the years are the people I have met in various countries.  But how on Earth would I have ever met them – and talked to them – without having my camera as I  approached them?

I am a tall man and if I saw this wonderful old man in China --- or some charming grandmother in Italy – it would be difficult indeed to initially approach them to talk.  If I walked over and said they look interesting without a camera, they may well think I am starting a scam to rob them.  Being an American and a taller person, they would be on guard …. perhaps even checking to make sure they still have their wallet!

But my camera has allowed me to feel “smaller” and less threatening to literally thousands of people encounters over the many years; not only to talk with them, but also to make photographs of them.  With a camera, I have an unthreatening reason to walk over to talk to them.

I feel really blessed and humbled by these many opportunities when I travel with my cameras.  I am thrilled to have been a travel photographer for my whole career, having clients actually PAY me to travel and experience the joys of other cultures in over 180 countries on all the 7 continents.  I can’t think of a better job on this planet!

This wonderful man in China was sitting alone on a bench.  He was from the famous Yangtze River area  and, at the time, they were flooding the river to a height of almost 600 feet to prevent future floods in the region.  They were building the enormous Three Gorges Dam down the river to control the water levels.

While that project would do good things for the country in the long run, it was so devastating to everything he knew.  They had flooded hundreds of villages (including his) so his home and all the graves of his ancestors were now underwater.  The Chinese government would relocate him to a village on top of the mountain, but that was still so sad and hurtful to his history, his life, his entire world.

The reason I enclose this picture, and this story, is to illustrate that I would have never experienced his story --or knew of his plight  -- without my camera!  I asked to take his picture, along with my translator, and got to sit with him and learn his story & his horrible plight.  And I am more understanding from learning of his story and experiences.  This type of encounter and photograph – multiplied by thousands – is what I am most joyful about in this career of being a travel photographer.

So I give you all a few hints on traveling and experiencing the joy of meeting native people:

1. Have a smile!  A smile is understood in any language.

2. Be interesting and interested!  Those are two separate things, by the way.

3. Best to travel with a guide or interpreter that can help communicate.  They are well worth whatever they cost!

4. Try to learn a few phrases of the local language.  People all over the world will understand that you are TRYING to become part of their culture    and will appreciate that.  You may well mess up the words, but they know you are trying.

5. Spend some time with the people!  Don’t just shoot their picture and run.  Learn to relax, have a drink with them, talk with them, perhaps buy something from their store, etc.  It is time well spent.  Don’t rush thru your travels and miss so many golden opportunities.

6. BE HUMAN!  We are all the same in many ways.

7. In the digital world, show them the picture from your camera.  They will love it!  That, almost more than anything, “bonds” you with them.  You will literally laugh together.  It will bring a smile, I guarantee it!

8. Offer to send a digital photo to them to their email account (if they have one).  And REALLY IMPORTANT – if you promise to send them an emailed picture, DO IT!  Make your word mean something.  I do that on every trip when I get home and I always get a glowing email back, thanking me.  If you promise them, then keep your word.  It also will help the next person in that situation to get cooperation from others --- if you don’t keep your word, then they feel saddened that you did not do what you said you would.  It takes time to email them, but it will make you feel good.  I am busy when I return home, but I make sure I always do this to email the people I have promised.

9. You may want to consider bringing a small printer to make a print to give them in African tribes, etc that have no way to get email.  I used to carry  a Polaroid camera before they closed the company,  and they were fascinated by the print appearing before them.   There is a small printer now by Fuji that Terre, my good friend that travels with me on my BTO trips, brings and they LOVE getting a print from her!  Talk about multiple smiles!

10. It helps a lot if you ENJOY people!  Go “outside of yourself” to meet and talk with locals.  You will not be disappointed.

11. Come with us on one of my Bachmann Tour Overdrive (BTO) trips.  One of the best things I like about the trips I direct with people who love travel & photography is that I often do the groundwork to get my group introduced to locals – I "break the ice", so to speak.  If you are shy, these experiences may help you do it with me, and later be more comfortable to go alone to introduce yourself in the future. 

I hope this helps you see another real joy in traveling.  The photographs you take are valuable,  but the experiences of meeting local people are even more so in your life and soul.  I have been so lucky to do this for a living and if you ever sit with me and look at pictures, I can relate hundreds & hundreds of special people with stories and times with them.  I may bore you, however, with the stories.  I consider those times the most valuable experiences in my travels --- even more than grand vistas I see and photograph.

As I wrote in my book, “Send Me Anywhere” ….

"When I shoot people, I am looking for THAT MOMENT… that one instant where we create something that wasn’t there before.  Hopefully, I will endeavor to find a ‘soul’ in my people pictures – some part of their being that I can record on file.  That moment will never happen again.”

I know I feel so blessed in traveling and meeting so many people in all my travels.  Hope you can come on another of my BTO Adventures and share those moments with me and our fabulous group of travelers!  We do not travel like a “tour” …. I won’t do that.  We get in, meet the people and “get our hands dirty”.  Our group doesn’t just see the world …. We feel it in our souls!

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 Locals in third world countries absolutely LOVE receiving an instant photo. In Ethiopia we gave this man a print from the new portable Fuji Insta Mini camera.