When on the road with my camera, sometimes for months at a time, I often go to bed with the distinct feeling that I receive more than I give. I am a travel photographer, which means I spend my days asking things of people. I ask for their permission, their time, their image. I ask them to overcome their shyness, or to act like I’m not there. I ask to be let into their lives for a moment, even though I will soon be gone.
Not everyone says yes to my requests, but very many do. I’m most touched by those for whom “yes” is a stretch, who prefer not to be the subject of a camera’s attention but who, even more, wish to grant a photographer’s request. They very clearly are giving to me. They also are among the reasons why, when I’m in a place for several days, I try to stop by a photo store and develop a few prints just before I leave. I then retrace my steps from previous days, stopping at shops and stalls and homes where I know I can find the people who allowed me to photograph them—people such as the woman above, who works at an optometrist shop in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
“The act of giving initiates relationships and even friendships,” writes Anthony Gittins in his book Bread for the Journey. “Not to give is not to be in relationship.”