Respect goes a long way: How to become a better travel photographer and person
posted Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 2:55 PM EDT
South Korea-based Australian photographer Dylan Goldby loves travel photography. It affords you the unique opportunity to experience and capture cultures you otherwise wouldn't. There are plentiful photographic opportunities. However, during Goldby's extensive travels, he's seen photographers exhibit troubling behavior. In a piece for Fstoppers, "The Tyranny of the Travel Photographer," Goldby examines the behavior and what can be done about it.
Goldby is quick to point out that not all of the bad behavior he's witnessed is malicious, sometimes people get overwhelmed by all the new sights and sounds of a place, but they're problems nonetheless. He recalls a situation in Luang Prabang, Laos where a swarm of noisy tourists arrived at a procession of monks to take photos. One tourist, armed with their camera, even barged into the procession and caused a disturbance, shoving her lens into a monk's face. There's a massive difference between trying to capture a photo of an important local tradition and inserting yourself into that very situation, ruining it not only for the local people trying to go about their lives but also anyone else who wanted to experience the moment.
He goes on to recall another similar situation in Angkor, Cambodia, which you should read about here. What can be done about this, how can you avoid becoming one of the troublesome traveling photographers? Research can go a long way, says Goldby, "If you understand the people you're planning to photograph, you'll have more respect for them." Another excellent tip he has for travelers is to hire a local fixer. A fixer is someone from the area who understands the culture and customs and can take you to cool places all while acting as a translator. More tips can be found here.
In the end, it's all about respect. Whether it be respecting people when traveling or -- with more relevance to my own work -- respecting nature and wildlife, if you don't treat the things you photograph with basic decency, everyone loses, including you and your photography.