Being a black traveler means that most times, people are staring at you. Some people might hate that, and on occasion, so do I. However, there are times where it has allowed me to capture some amazing photographs. My name is Afiya and I’m a professional people watcher.
Every time I return home from a trip, the first thing I do after taking a hot shower is upload the photos from my camera to my laptop. I usually return with over 1,000 pictures and at least two hours of video but I started noticing an interesting trend: the subject of most of my pictures were people. Whenever I’m planning my itinerary, I always aim to discover all aspects of what makes the country I’m visiting unique; food, eco-tourism, architecture, fashion etc. But I always add a park or a nice street cafe to the list so that I can take time out to de-stress from the hustle and bustle and of course people watch.
People watching isn’t about being nosey. It’s simply allowing yourself to be engulfed in the energy of the people and capturing it if you can. It is observing the group of Buddhist monks in Thailand chatting as they cross the street, or watching a young Thai boy sit between his parents on a motorbike whizzing through traffic. It can even be watching a group of mature Indian women sit and chat with each other or a young Japanese couple indulge in each other in a photo booth in Tokyo. But the most interesting thing to notice is how they notice you. I sometimes snap without even looking at my camera or in the direction it’s facing. Since I’m working with a point and shoot camera, I’m very unassuming. It’s always interesting to see the pictures that I’ve taken because I’m always surprised to notice that most times my subject is looking at me. Smiles, expressions of confusion, curiosity and disgust, are usually the expressions that I see in the photos that I’ve taken.
People are beautiful creatures. We express ourselves freely without even knowing. Our body language and facial expressions can express a plethora of emotions. Our culture shines through us in how we greet others, celebrate, mourn and go about our daily activities. On your next trip, take some time to sit down and people watch. Take in the noise, the emotion, and facial expressions. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn about a location by means of its people in just a few minutes.
This story was curated by Afiya Francis.