Travel Photography Subjects: Rich

Travel Photography Subjects: Rich

090807-174032-1982 This post is number eight of twenty one subjects that will help you focus when on your next journey and you wish to bring back a well rounded story of where you were.  If you’re just going on vacation and only want pictures of yourself by the pool sipping boat drinks, then you can probably skip this one.  These posts are not intent on telling you everything you need to do, step by step, to capture perfect, cookie-cutter pictures while traveling.  Instead, they are intent on pointing out some vital elements to capture when on the road and ask thought provoking questions you may want to ask yourself.  My hope is they help guide you to find your own means to better expressing what your travels have meant to you and present that in the best light possible.

The Rich.  Such a broad classification for a group.  And it’s highly relative to where one stands in a society. Or where societies stand in relation to each other.  It’s a fact that some individuals in a society always have more than others and when those individuals gain far more than their countrymen, we tend to label them as rich.  It’s hard to pick any one defining point when someone becomes rich; is it $100,000USD? $1,000,000? Or more?  Each region, country and neighborhood even, will have its own definition.

The key as a traveler looking for representation of the rich in a country is to look for classic hallmarks you may be used to (i.e. In my Western culture sense, that’d be expensive cars, lavish clothes, large houses and a lot of jewelry, to name a few) and then dive deeper into the society to find what’s important locally.  Most of the time wealth will be material and fairly easy to spot.  Even if not rich by your home county’s standards, a tribesman may be rich by his own standards based on the number of livestock he keeps or the number of wives or children in his family.  Ask around to find out what other locals define as rich.  As mentioned before, ask those who are already helping you with your travels, such as cabbies, hotel staff and shop owners.  Find out from them what’s important, maybe even having them point out to you who they think is rich.

If you’re lucky enough to make the acquaintance of someone rich by local standards, take a chance and be curious while being mindful of social decorum. (I know, it’s an odd balancing act at times)  Explaining how you are trying to capture multiple sides of the location you’re visiting can help open doors.  People who are well off also tend to like to flaunt it, so play to their ego while being genuinely curious.  These opportunities don’t come along often and you must decide for yourself if the situation and timing are worth the effort.  I’ve only come across such an encounter once or twice in my travels and they can be revealing looks into a society.  Luckily in my instances, my hosts were gracious and wonderful to get to know.

What does ‘Rich’ mean to you while traveling?  How has it shown itself?  Include a photo or link to one in the comments section below to tell your tale.


Previous articles in the Travel Photography Subjects series include Water, Old People, Young People, Religion, Sports, Socializing and Icons.  Be sure to subscribe to this site to receive the other 15 subjects as they are posted!

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Rick V December 17, 2010 06:41 am

    To Rick B and Killian,
    Now, now, children, take a step back and think of the subject. If the photos of the "rich" depict a different point of view that not many easily share, then there is some value in the attempted communication via photography. If, however, the intent is to demean either the rich or the non-rich, then there is little redeeming social value and, rather than excoriate, simply ignore it. Everyone has the right to be wrong!

  • Thomas @ September 4, 2010 09:37 pm

    I totally agree with David Genac, through following your, let's say so, instructions, or should I say suggestions (seems like a more appropriate word), by talking to the locals you'll know more about who is considered as being rich in that place, and be introduced to many beautiful places, people and opportunities to make a great photo while traveling.

  • Peter West Carey July 24, 2010 03:03 am

    And then the author said: Ok, Rick, Killian and anyone else thinking of pig piling on that thread I'd ask you to please just drop it where it lies. DPS has never been about this kind of arguing in the comments section and I'd like to continue down that path. In three years of writing here, I'm glad to say this is the only time people have got snipity with each other in the comments.

    To quote Biggs from Star Wars, "Stay on target"

    David Genac, that's a very nice way to put things. Thanks

  • fishcop July 24, 2010 01:06 am

    I like the idea of this topic- focussing on the rich (pardon the pun!) while on vacation. I suspect most people have never given this any thought while traveling, I know I haven't, and later wondered why their photos missed capturing the 'essence' of the place that they were. In leafing through old issues of Nat Geographic this topic is very well illustrated. I know a lot of people look at the articles and say "I was THERE!" because they can really identify with not just the place but the people, it isn't just a travel brochure of pretty pictures. I will definitely keep this in mind in the future!

  • Rick Booker July 24, 2010 12:40 am

    After voicing my opinion of this topic every one of your replies have attacked me personally. "Snot, ass, on my pedestal, judgmental, disrespectful" My opinion was of the TOPIC. I know nothing of the author other than what I read so I have no opinion of him personally. I admit one or two of my comments in reply to you could be interpreted as personally insulting the author. I apologize for that.

    I had a few paragraphs written in this final reply to you but self control got the better of me when I remembered some very wise advice. "It's never wise to wrestle a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it."

    Have a lovely day,
    Rick Booker
    (of course you know my name already since I'm the one not hiding behind the anonymity of the internet)

  • Killian July 23, 2010 11:03 pm

    While I do appreciate the gratuitous title, Rick, the gender is a little off. =)

    Having an opinion is nothing out of the ordinary; we all have them. The question is, would you have been so obnoxious and crude in your voicing of it without the benefit of hiding behind the internet?

    An analogy for you: you and Peter are both guests in Darren's "home," with Peter being the guest of honor on this particular day. Upon hearing something that you, being in the same field, may not necessarily agree with, how do you procedd? Do you speak in a polite, civilized manner to the guest as you offer your dissenting point of view, or do you call him asinine (or, his ideas asinine, if you prefer true semantic accuracy)? You accused him of having a "total lack of class," and yet you're the one who's showing it quite clearly.

    As for what thought or purpose you have as a photographer, unless you have -no- thought or purpose when shooting, in which case your work would be shoddy, you obviously have some there. And as soon as you choose a subject, there is something about it that you selected. You and I could both take the same photo of the same subject, but have different purposes and creative drive. But -something- drives us.

    What I'm saying is that choosing to shoot the opulence and extravagance of the rich is no more or less worthy than capturing the quiet strength of the poor. The tranquility and calm of a gorgeous landscape is no better or worse than a war torn city. It's all in the eye of the photographer. Your judgmental and low-class words, shot off to a fellow professional were disrespectful, and in poor taste.



  • Rick Booker July 23, 2010 10:50 pm

    Lord Killian,
    "Hope you can hear me waaaay up there on your pedestal. Whether you want to admit it, you classify subjects all of the time."

    "But if all you’re doing is being a judgmental snot, why bother? You’re not superior to him, any more than he is to us, so the only thing you achieve is success in making yourself look like a pompous ass."

    I must beg your forgiveness for having an opinion. I now realize that I am not in yours or the author's class. Thank you for making that crystal clear.

    I do have a question. How in the world do you know what thought or purpose I have when MY camera's shutter clicks?

  • Amir Paz July 23, 2010 08:19 pm

    where the rich live :) ...


  • Suresh Narayanan July 23, 2010 04:45 pm

    I like to photograph the rich cultural heritage of countries.

  • John R. Sauers July 23, 2010 02:18 pm

    The wealth a person has is of no concern of mine as it may be a definite subject of photography, and certainly not mine.. Photographing the rich is boring.. Photos of the mundane and the mediocre are much more interesting and colourful and exciting.

  • param July 23, 2010 08:21 am

    Interesting. Will be interesting to get pictures of people with things that make them feel rich in any sense.

  • David Genac July 23, 2010 04:06 am

    I think a lot of the critics of this suggestion are missing the point. If you look around, and ask around, to find out what is considered wealth in the locale in which you are shooting, it will help you better understand how you are viewed, too.

    You may have saved and scraped your money together for a couple of years to take this trip of a lifetime, and yet, in the context of the local culture you may be extremely wealthy! Locals, therefore, may treat you differently because of the way you are perceived to be rich, or an expectation of how you will act. You may find yourself insulting people without realizing it. You may get ripped off because you do not know the value of money in that society. (Conversely, using the example of going to Rodeo Drive, you might see people who are visibly more wealthy than you, and yet you'd have a hard time convincing them of their wealth.)

    If you go into a village or neighborhood realizing that you are wealthy beyond the imagination of some of the people you encounter, you may choose to act in a more humble manner so as to not appear like an arrogant jerk. Your relative wealth may give you access to people, places, and information that the locals do not enjoy. If you do not make the effort to learn what constitutes wealth, you won't be able to put what you see and experience into the proper context.

  • Killian July 23, 2010 02:04 am


    Hope you can hear me waaaay up there on your pedestal. Whether you want to admit it, you classify subjects all of the time. When a photojournalist shoots the after-effects of an earthquake, or a bomb, that's shooting a particular class of shots. Dorothea Lange focused almost exclusively on migrant workers and the Japanese internment camps; the poorest of the poor. As a famous and talented photojournalist herself, I'm sure she'd be thrilled to hear your opinion that her work is asinine. She did seek out a class of subjects, just as the author does here. It just happened to be the other side.

    Most people who read this forum, I bet, are not millionaires. So maybe an afternoon on Rodeo Drive, or Park Avenue, or any other area where "the other half live" could be a lot of fun. It could be a classic car enthusiast who never gets to be that close to a Lamborghini. It could be a snicker of amusement at a woman who fits the Real Housewives of [City] stereotype walking down the street in her fur and heels, with a purse dog and heavy make up. Or maybe a daydream of that sprawling mansion with amazing gardens is what makes a person drool.

    My point is, if you have constructive criticism, I'm sure everyone here would benefit from it, including the author of the post. But if all you're doing is being a judgmental snot, why bother? You're not superior to him, any more than he is to us, so the only thing you achieve is success in making yourself look like a pompous ass.


  • Rick Booker July 22, 2010 09:41 pm

    This has to be the most asinine topic I have ever seen in a photography forum. I guess I'm not sophisticated enough to walk in the author's realm since I have NEVER consider what class my subject belongs to. My subjects are either interesting or they are not. To intentionally seek out subjects sorted by classes to me shows a total lack of class.

  • Vince Cuffaro July 22, 2010 09:33 pm

    Nothing fancy...but a great pic for the RICH subject! Right around the corner from our hotel in Chicago.

  • Leo Angelo July 22, 2010 07:15 pm

    This is quite interesting and unique. Thanks for the tip.

  • Scott July 22, 2010 01:31 pm

    Here's a contrast between have and have not, in Africa:

  • Caleb July 22, 2010 11:47 am

    @ian, too bad that is not a lexus. LOL!

  • Jason Collin Photography July 22, 2010 11:30 am

    Very original subject, travel - rich......

    Does wearing a nice suit and trench coat on your way to practice your hobby qualify as rich?

  • Mei Teng July 22, 2010 10:38 am

    I have never ever thought of this subject in my travels. Quite an interesting concept though. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ilan (@ilanbr) July 22, 2010 06:54 am

    Looking for rich as a photography topic?
    I dunno, it sounds kind of ... strange. I have a photo when I used a 'luxury' item ( a car in this case) to show a contrast between different life "styles"
    But the idea to actually go and search for rich/ness sounds really awkward to me.... Maybe it's just me?