Faces of the world

Seaweed farm in Zanzibar

Like we said in our last blog post, it’s uncanny how you can capture the spirit, and the memories, of a place, by simply capturing in shot, a face, or body, of someone, sometimes completely unintentionally. Sometimes it’s someone you met, more often than not, it isn’t. It’s only when you look back, you see the face, the memories flood back. One face, one image, and you are transported back into the moment.

Let’s start with the one above. We’d taken a bus across Zanzibar to a remote east coast beach at Paje, not knowing of the existence of the seaweed farm where ladies like the one above worked all day, sitting all day in the water, reaping the harvest.

The second pic, below, is on a road trip across Bengal, where these cheeky boys just wanted to be in camera shot…

Cheeky Bengal boys in photograph

We were travelling way out from Kolkata, heading for the Sunderbans mangrove swamps, when the roads ran out, and the only way on was this overloaded dugout, full of locals returning to their own mangrove island after going to market. Their faces reflect their surprise at seeing two white people on the “ferry”….

Overloaded mangrove swamp boat

The next two shots are in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. When the fishing boat comes in, there’s nowhere to dock, so the only way to get the fish ashore is a human chain, standing fully clothed in the water, passing the buckets of fish from man to man. From there, there is no further journey, the fish market is right on the shore, and the guy in the second shot was only too happy to stop and pose as he filleted the fresh fish….

Fishing fleet arrives in Dar Es salaam

Dar Es salaam fish market

Skoura in Morocco was a stunning destination, a small Berber village close to the awesome Dades Gorge and on the very edge of the Sahara; after Skoura there is nothing, pretty much for ever. We were lucky enough to catch market day, where this Berber was looking to sell his wares….

Berber shepherd on market day

Sometimes the fish are so plentiful that all you need to do is drag a big net through the ocean, on foot. This lady is in Bakkhali….

The ease of fishing in Bengal

There’s not many better experiences than being in a bar where you are the only travellers and nobody cares, because it’s locals night. They’ve brought the instruments, they strike up. They play, you listen. They’re not playing for you, they’re not playing for tourists, they’re playing because it’s their night. Spanish guitars, dancing ladies. This was a brilliant night….

Impromptu music in Spanish bar

We were trekking through Ait Mansour, an oasis in deepest Morocco. We thought we wouldn’t see anyone all day, then we stumbled on Omar’s commune, where a small group of travellers from around the world were helping the oasis dwellers build an irrigation system. Omar taught us how to make herbal tea….

Berber shepherd making herbal tea

Driving down from Dikili to Foca in Turkey, we took a random detour up into the mountains, with no idea of the good fortune our detour would bring. The tiny village we approached was alive with action, and to our delight we were called in to join the celebrations, which turned out to be the celebration of a young lad who had reached puberty. The party was to celebrate his impending circumcision. The villagers were as amused by our presence as we were astonished at our luck…

Circumcision celebration in Turkish village

An inevitable stop on the roads across India is the tea or chai stop. This wonderfully photogenic lady provided not just tea but tasty sugary bites on our long journey…

Roadside tea on Indian road trip

Varanasi is perhaps the most stirring, incredible place we have visited so far, every instinct and every sense is tested, your comfort zone is a distant memory. Cremations before your eyes, masses drinking filthy water from the sacred river…..and on and on. There’s a million photos we could share, but this guy’s distant look kind of sums it all up…

On the ghats at Varanasi

And to finish… We’d long since left Varanasi, been to the mangrove swamps, and ended up in the seriously unfamiliar territory of Bakkhali on the Bengal coast, where people came and touched our skin, simply because they hadn’t seen aliens like us before. There, just a hundred yards from families on the beach, one family cremated a relative, burning the body and floating her out to sea. As the “party” broke up, two ladies stopped before us. Did they want to show their mettle by posing for us? We don’t know, but this photograph, knowing what their last few moments had entailed, is awesome.

Dignity in mourning

Many things make travel wonderful. People are one major aspect…

Faces of Mexico

Mexican lady in market of Ocotlan Oaxaca Mexico

Photographs of people’s faces can be so evocative of travel; somehow you can capture the spirit and image of a place with a single shot of someone. But of course it’s not always the right thing to do, and as an independent traveller, learning how to respect the local people, and their beliefs, is an essential part of getting closer to their culture. Taking direct photographs can offend, in some parts of the world there is a genuine dislike, and in some parts of Asia in particular, there is a belief that each photograph steals a part of the soul.

Then of course there are those who want money for a photograph, and then there are those who are very happy to be captured on film.

The Oaxaca region of Mexico is so full of evocative faces. The valleys surrounding the city are home to the descendants of 16 different indigenous tribes, each with their own appearance, dialect and culture. Apparently the locals can tell at a glance which tribe someone heralds from, we didn’t quite get that far but it’s impossible to miss some of the more distinctive features. Some look very much like we imagine so called “Red Indians” to look (there’s cowboys too!); some are short and squat with wider faces; some of the older ladies, presumably from a particular tribe, keep their hair very long and plaited, and then tie the ends of the plaits together with an oversized and brightly coloured ribbon.

There is no racist element to this identification process; on the contrary, it is the immense pride in heritage that keeps the distinctive looks alive.

We managed to capture some shots of faces which we think evoke the spirit and the memories of the vibrant city of Oaxaca. Some are reproduced here.

Street hawker in Oaxaca Mexico

Local man in Ocotlan Oaxaca Mexico

In the market Oaxaca Mexico