This post is number six 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.
How people socialize from region to region often seems something of a shock to the unsuspecting traveler, even in their own home country. City to city, the changes are less obvious. Block to block, they can be barely perceptible. But they are there. Humans are a social species and any time two or more of us get together there are behaviors and patterns, ways of communicating, ways of conveying thoughts and feelings about what’s important to each.
In broad terms, from a photographic standpoint when traveling, I take socializing to be any interactions that aren’t strictly business (even though business transactions often involve various types of socializing). And typically the types of interactions where people are trying to learning something from each other, unlike sports and other competitions. It’s the way cabbies waiting for a fare will stand around and chat. It’s the way police talk with vagrants in a park before moving them along. And kids at a movie theater yelling to friends or playing video games.
To really get a feel for socializing when traveling, it’s best to spend a day with no camera. Walk around and maybe see some of the tourist areas, but also spend time seated in a park away from the popular sites (we’ll have a post later that talks about hitting those ‘must see’ sites, but for now, leave them be). Go to a local cafe and just people watch. For some of us, this is one of the thrills of travel but for some, it’s a stretch to just sit and watch. But it’s important. Without a camera to grab, you’re more forced to witness, to see how others interact.
Do people mainly keep to themselves or is there a lot of interaction? Do young people talk to old people and do they do it different than when they talk to those in their own age group? Where do people tend to gather? Can you spot old friends and how they interact? And discern that from new acquaintances? Is there much physical contact during a conversation or are people more reserved? Loud or hushed? Smiles or serious?
Spending a day observing before grabbing your camera will answer these questions and more. If you can’t spend a whole day, maybe just an hour will do. It’ll give you a better idea of who the strangers are around you. Spending this day without a camera may also have another benefit. I’ve found people are often more likely to chat with you if you don’t have a camera. You may then learn more about how locals socialize with tourists. You may also make a friend who can lead you to other insights about the area you are visiting. And they’ll probably be ok with you taking their picture the next time you meet.
You say you aren’t traveling and have no photo to share in the comments section below? I say take a look at how those around you in your home town socialize and try photographing that first. Practice at home will sharpen your skill when you’re faced with a foreign country and culture. And by all means, please share any shots you have of what socializing means to you in the comment section.
Previous articles in the Travel Photography Subjects series include Water, Old People, Young People, Religion and Sports. Be sure to subscribe to this site to receive the other 15 subjects as they are posted!