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Photo-Essay: Photographers Giving Back

When in New Delhi I was able to meet up with an American photographer friend, Tim Steadman, and he took me around Old Old in New Delhi (that sounded funny, yeah?) and we shot photographs for a day. It was one of the best people shooting days (ok that sounded really bad) that I had in India to date.  We didn’t have a translator and just winged it.

Tim took his two Canon camera bodies and me armed with my Canon 5D Mark II and we hit the streets.  We also threw in a couple speed lights to see if anyone would be willing to let us use some flashes while they worked.

So we took off and just randomly selected a street early one morning.  The first street was full of families and kids and we were warmly welcomed to shoot just about anyone.  After that we both knew it was going to be a good day.  We walked for about 5hrs, getting lost on back alley streets and meeting some real characters.  Bye the end of the afternoon we were beat and headed off to eat some sushi.

Later that night I was editing my shots and couldn’t believe how well they were coming out.  Tim was having the same issue as I was, as it was hard to decide on which photo we liked best.  We both agreed that we should print some of these shots and go back the next day and give them to the people who we photographed.  We figured it was a great way to give back then any amount of money and after my success in Jodhpur doing the same, I knew I would just feel GREAT afterwards.

I have often wanted to do this more but I said before it’s just to hard at times.  This time things were perfect: we got great shots, knew where to get the photos printed, had the time and knew the people should be back the next day exactly where we photographed them.  After doing this twice now I will start to make it a point (no matter what) to do this a lot more.  Once a month maybe, as I travel slowly enough I should be able to make the above happen again.  It also serves as a great motivator to get out and photograph with a vengeance!

The next day we headed out and tried our best to remember which streets we walked.  This proved to be the hardest part of the whole day and made a mental note to better document streets I walk on for later references.   We found 80% of the people we printed photos for and all were delighted for the most part.  I say for the most part because a few demanded money after we came back to give them a copy.  Tim and I both thought that was a little weak at best and we just shook our heads and said no.  After all the day before they gave us permission and now we were giving them something back for free and they wanted money… but that only happened with 2 people out of 20, so I still felt good knowing I did something special for some.

If you ever get a chance to do this, try it some time while you’re traveling.  Even if you got just a small point-&-shoot camera people will still love a copy of whatever you took.  The smiles and laughs are well worth it!

Old Delhi photographs of people

This produce seller never said a word when I took his photo or gave him a copy… he just smiled like in the picture the whole time

Old Delhi photographs of people

We stumbled down a small alley way and Tim noticed the light coming down inside a room where a man was cutting paper.  Before I knew it, Tim was inside shooting away, as some guys seen him and invited him in.  They gave us a personal tour of the place and we both had a blast shooting with such great light.

We walked around like mad men the next day trying to find this shop and give them a copy.  By the time we finally found it the light wasn’t there like the day before.  Again though, they were really excited when we showed back up to give them a copy.

Old Delhi photographs of people

We found a beef butcher shop (not something you see everyday in India) and the two men asked if we would shoot some photos of it.  When I returned the next day to give him a copy he was cleaning the shop up and had processed meat all over himself and his hands.  I showed him the photo and without even wiping his hands clean he clinched it and smiled big while looking at it.

Old Delhi photographs of people

I was walking down the street and this old man waved at me, so I waved back with my camera and he bobbled his head yes to take a photograph.  The next day when I gave him a copy though he looked a little shocked and didn’t say much.  Probably the second hardest thing of the day, beyond finding the people, was getting them to hold the photos up for a picture.  It took about 2min of explaining but he finally got it.  I think the 2nd photo came out better then the first one!

Old Delhi photographs of people

Another man who didn’t say a word but only smiled.  I was hoping for a better picture with this guy the next day, as I wanted to use a light set with him but in the end I just gave him the photo and left it at that.  Sometimes that’s the best and glad I didn’t ruin the moment.

Old Delhi photographs of people

This produce seller might have been the most excited about this photo when we returned the next day.  He held it like a fine oil painting and we ended up take a bunch of random shots of his friends afterwards.  They all wanted a photo to I guess.

Old Delhi photographs of people

This guy was really cool and fun.  I promised him I would return with a copy and he was really surprised when I did.  He almost got me to try some of his tobacco that he sells but even for me that stuff is pretty nasty and talked my way out of it.

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  • http://UncorneredMarket.com Audrey

    The photos here are fantastic and the story behind it is even better. We often are too much in a rush to go back and give photos to people that we have photographed, but I’m trying to change that as our experiences doing this have been great. The look of surprise and happiness is priceless. 

    When we traveled through Central Asia, I had a whole notebook full of addresses of people wanting us to send them their photo. I tore out these pages and taped them to envelopes (figured post office could read their cyrillic handwriting better than mine) and mailed them with photos. But I have no idea if any of them ever arrived. I’d like to think they did. 

  • http://turkishtravelblog.com Natalie

    Fantastic pictures. I love the way that everyone just seemed to take to you. Approaching people for pictures is still a nerve wracking experience for me. 

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ Anonymous

    I’ve heard of people taking photos of an address hand written, then printing it and taping it to a letter to mail a person a photo.  I thought about doing that as well but I just never did.  I guess I didn’t want to really mail them off that bad and wanted to give them pictures in hand more.  I always say that when you give, you give to yourself more then the person who receives, as for me I get more excited about giving photos back then I think they do most times! lol :)

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ Anonymous

    I agree it’s not easy to approach but what helped this day was I was with a friend who thought exactly like me (Tim Steadman), which made it 10x easier.  He would approach where I was shy and vise versa.  Worked out perfectly! :)

  • http://expertvagabond.com Matthew Karsten

    Great shots as always Troy! You’ve got me excited to give photos back more often now too.

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ Anonymous

    You travel slow enough I think it would be possible for ya.  Would love to see smiles from the people you hooked back up.  You always get to some really off the beaten places, i bet ya find some true characters :)

  • http://twitter.com/eriksmithdotcom Erik Smith

    Outstanding Idea! You are a good ambassador!

  • http://twitter.com/HeckticTravels Hecktic Travels

    I really, REALLY love this idea and the photos are tremendous!

  • http://twitter.com/HeckticTravels Hecktic Travels

    I really, REALLY love this idea and the photos are tremendous!

  • http://twitter.com/HeckticTravels Hecktic Travels

    I really, REALLY love this idea and the photos are tremendous!

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ Anonymous

    Ambassador Floyd… humm got a funny ring to it don’t ya think! lol

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ Anonymous

    Thanks and I was super happy at how well the photos came out that day and after.  Karma is a good thing I think :)

  • http://nomadicsamuel.com Nomadic Samuel

    This is a lovely photo essay – great smiles.

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  • Pingback: Photo-Essay: Photographers Giving Back – Old Town of New Delhi, India « G11 – Photography Magazine 'online'

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  • http://twitter.com/MathewGeorgie Georgie Mathew

    wonderful way of giving.. its inspiring me…

  • http://twitter.com/AGStd Ajith Gopinathan

    I really like your effort to go back, find your subject and give a copy of the shot !! 

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  • http://coupletraveltips.com/ Jason and Aracely

    Great thing to do Troy.  We considered this in Latin America, but didn’t have access to the portable printer we wanted to buy.  There are some small portable photo printers available that can actually allow you to print on the spot.  

  • http://www.robinwyatt.org/photography Robin Wyatt

    This is so important – hats off to you! A timely reminder to all of us humanitarian and travel photographers to do the right thing.

  • http://www.robinwyatt.org/photography Robin Wyatt

    This is so important – hats off to you! A timely reminder to all of us humanitarian and travel photographers to do the right thing.

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  • http://twitter.com/freakytravel Jeremy

    I’ve always been a fan of your site and this is a good example of why! Not only do you produce fantastic photos but your work and travel ethic is outstanding. Good on’ya!

  • http://www.foggodyssey.com/ Anonymous

    Thanks Jeremy, was a great day and some of the best photos I got from India were from that single day, so giving back has it rewards in lots of way!  Glad you dig my work :)

  • Heatherstubbs

    I loved this essay! What a great idea to do and I am sure that the people you gave the photos back to thought that was neat. Many of them probably don’t have the opportunity to get a picture of themselves. I love your site, just came across it about an hour ago and haven’t left it yet. Love your photos and the stories that go with them!!! Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/raghavendrann Raghavendra Nagaraj

    reminds me a word often used less practiced “niswarth seva” – selfless service….

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