When I started this travel I really wanted to take as many photos as possible of the people on my journey.
I would be traveling from Spain to New Delhi by train.
In the beginning I was really persistent and I would ask my travel mates or the people travelling in the same compartment to have a photo taken. In some cases I wouldn’t speak the same language, so I had something drawn up, a sheet of paper, what I wanted from them.
So I drew a map of the world and I said with sign language “I’m travelling from Spain to India and I would like to take a photo of the people I meet on the travel, would you like to take a photo?”
A few people answered that they don’t like it but most of the people would accept.
Many people were happy when I asked about the photos and people came to me and asked me “take a photo of me”. My impression is, and maybe it’s a romanticized idea, that some of them really wanted to be part of my life. They wanted to giving me their image.
They wanted to enter with their image into one of the nice living rooms that they see on TV in European houses. They wanted to step into my world
My question was always the same but their reaction was very different. There were people who would smile, people who wouldn’t smile, people who look straight into the camera but many would look somewhere else.
I think it’s a reflection of the different cultures.
In Iran many people didn’t like it to look straight into the camera. In some cases where people refused to take a photo it was women who explained to me – according to their culture – they could not have a photo taken without the permission of their husband.
So there was a big cultural determination.
In one case I remember there was one woman of who I really wanted to take a photo of. She was beautiful, wearing a head scarf. But I also wanted to take a photo of her face. In the end I was only able to take a photo of her with her hands covering her face. She wanted to agree with my request of a photo of her face.
Of course it’s difficult not to say or using cultural stereotypes, I’m really trying not to. But when I was in that street (in New Delhi) I remember that my impression was
“this is how and where our slaves live, these people are basically here to help us buying our H&M T-shirt for 3€”
I remember the expression of one worker when I asked him if I could take a photo of him. He reacted not with contempt but nearly in a way of challenge.
It was like he wanted to tell me “ok, you are really interested in my life, so I’m going to show you how hard my work is”. So he lifted a heavy box over his head and without saying goodbye he just left. And I could only take a photo of him very briefly.
I had the feeling I was really capturing the consistent part of their life.
There were people who were carried by a worker and I remember an Entrepreneur who was sitting on the top of a pile of boxes.
His worker was carrying the boxes and this person on the top.
He didn’t seem to be ashamed or concerned about the fact that he is obviously increasing the weight for his worker.
In other travels I tried to do the same. Taking photos of the people is the best way to really capture something of the culture and the stories of people.
Many people couldn’t tell me their story because of the language barrier but in many cases I did speak with them and the people told me their stories.
And what many people told me is “You’re so lucky that you can travel. I can’t even leave my country. My government doesn’t give me the visa or I don’t have the money.”
Sometimes I just felt ashamed. I feel so incredibly lucky. I can do what most of the people are unable to do. I really have to treasure this lottery-ticket that I have drawn to be born in this country.
And I think telling their stories is a way of bringing awareness of how people in other countries live.