Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pictures of People

I take hundreds of photographs when I travel, and already on this trip to China I have close to 1000 pictures. I take pictures of scenery, sunsets, cars, and doors and windows (Stay tuned for a post on that), but I do not take a lot of pictures of people. My wife gets annoyed at me because I have to be reminded to even get her in some of our “holiday snaps”. Here in China I have actually done a better job at this, thanks to one of the teachers in one of my classes.

I asked all the teachers to e-mail me a little bit of information about themselves, and I asked for a picture of them so I could try to get to know them all. I started noticing a lot of pictures of the teachers and their children, but never was there any husbands in the photos. In fact often there was not even a husband mentioned. I couldn't help but wonder about this, but I was sort of afraid to ask. Why were there no husbands? Was this something I could ask, or should I just keep quiet about it? Was there a cultural thing I wasn't understanding?

Finally one teacher sent me a lovely picture of her, her daughter, her Mother, and her “husband's” mother. No husband, but at last he was sort of mentioned if only off-handed. I decided to e-mail her back and ask?

Of course the answer was simple. Her reply was short and to-the-point. There is never any husband in the picture, because he is always taking the picture. There are lots of pictures with the husbands, but it is the Teachers then taking the pictures themselves, so since I wanted a picture of them, I got the ones without the husbands. Duhhhh????

From then on, my mission was to take as many pictures of families, so they didn't have to have photos with one absent family member. As I explore the city, every time I see a husband taking a photo of his family, I stop and ask if I can take a picture for them with all of them in it. I've become pretty at explaining this with gestures and slow English, and most people really appreciate it. I also found out that although very few Chinese speak very much English, they all seem to know the phrase “Thank you very much”.

I have also noticed that I am a favouite subject of pictures. Many times I catch people sneaking photos of the strange foreigner with a beard and big hat. When I catch them doing this I stop them and then insist that I pose with them and then ask them to pose for a picture with my camera. In Shanghai we met three lovely young people with excellent English who we chatted with for a long time because they wanted a picture with me.

As a result of this, I find that I am actually taking more pictures of people in other situations, and I even have quite a few shots of my wife while she was visiting.

No comments:

Post a Comment