On my travels, I find it is always people who fascinate me the most. In our daily life we race past each other, head down, and don’t risk glancing at the other person. When you’re traveling it is somewhat different. When I travel, I do so with my eyes open. I notice things which I overlook in my daily life. I observe people around me much more closely. I am curious to learn about their life, their world and their viewpoints. Oftentimes, we don’t speak the same language, but we understand each other through looks and gestures. Sometimes, however, it isn’t like that. It happened in Borneo, or rather Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. Somewhere near Muara Wahau we stopped briefly at a market to buy some food for dinner. I love markets and, naturally, I had my camera at the ready. A women carrying a baby approached me. She kept pointing at the baby’s cheeks. I didn’t understand what she wanted from me and so I simply took a photo. However, she wouldn’t let up. Then our guide translated: She wanted me to kiss her baby on both cheeks so that the baby would have my long nose. My heart stopped for a brief moment. And then I kissed the baby. Firmly, on both cheeks. The expression in the baby’s eyes showed that it, like me, also didn’t know what was in store for both of us.
I find the different reactions that children display at having their photo taken fascinating. In Cambodia, for example, children couldn’t get enough of posing in front of my camera and to look at their pictures afterwards and giggle.
The situation was similar in Bali, when we visited a small place called Petulu at sunset. The boys were playing football, but when I pointed my camera towards them they stopped immediately to get into formation and pose for the perfect group photo.
The same thing happened in Oman one evening, when we were watching a group of teens and children play football at the beach at Al Seeb. The match continued, but little by little they approached me in groups of twos and threes; they were delighted when I took their photo and then ran back to their play mates.
The children in Mongolia, however, were completely different. Laughing one minute and then full of serious wisdom the next. As soon as I pulled out the camera, the laughter vanished from their faces. I was annoyed until out guide explained: Why should they pretend to be something different just for a photo? These are their faces, the way they are. Honest. That made me think for a long time; why do we so often try and present ourselves from our best side in photos? We laugh, smile, pout for the obligatory selfie, and, yet, we don’t really show the world who we really are.
It is actually quite simple to take good photos of children. This is because children themselves often know how to pose so they look the best, they are usually not camera shy, and are happy if you take photos of them. When I’m traveling I always try to have a sweet in my bag which I can then give to the children, as a thank you for being allowed to take their photo.
Yvonne Zagermann is a travel blogger and award-winning German TV editor. Her travel blog JUST travelous is not only one of the best German travel blogs, but it is also counted among the Top 100 travel blogs worldwide. She writes bilingually (German/English) about unique experiences, adventure travel and flashpacking.