Pathein, a little town in the Ayeyarwady delta in Burma.
This photo is part of a bigger photo essay I did on a family in Pathein. While I could talk about the technicalities of getting the shot, there’s something else more important if you are interested in taking better photos.
I made this portrait of Tu Aung on my first day at the workshop. First I had spent some time wandering around, talking to my guide and some people, before I took out my camera. As soon as my eye caught a glimpse of Tu Aung carrying the backlit umbrella, I started taking photos and moved progressively closer. Now these aren’t lightweight fluffy bunnies. These big umbrellas are heavy. It was hot. And Tu Aung was working. So I could hear him thinking in my mind “hurry up silly camera girl”. But his expression didn’t change, and he was super patient.
That evening I returned to my hostel dog-tired. But I knew I’d be going back the next day, so I busted my ass to find a shop somewhere in Pathein that would print photos. Little shops like these are never the best quality, but it’s better than nothing. And I wanted to give something back to a family who had given me their time and expected nothing in return.
The next day the prints were immediately passed around. Tu Aung came to me with the broadest smile you could imagine. It surprised me to see him this happy compared to the day before. But he wasn’t just holding onto this photo, he had another one in his hands. The little boy I photographed playing in the garden…turned out to be his grandson. That day – and even when I returned later that year – Tu Aung helped me photograph, carry equipment, and just generally watched over me so I wouldn’t do anything stupid :). I couldn’t have finished the essay without him.
So here’s the moral of the story. If you want to make better photographs, always put people first. Trust and respect matter more than f-stops and shutter speed. Never ever take this for granted.
Full Calendar 2013
This image is part of the 2013 calendar. Follow this link to download the full size version to use as wallpaper on your tablet or desktop.