Photographing Tribal India

A part of the focus of my Mom and my trip to India was to increase our photography skills. The state of Odisha (formally known as Orissa) and its’ tribal villages gave us the perfect backdrop to practice our portrait photography skills.

Over the course of three days we visited silk weaving and brass making villages, took in the sights and sounds of a religious parade and saw some of the caves and temples of Odisha.

In the rural villages people were very receptive to having their photos taken, especially children who would run up to us and pose in exchange for getting  a chance to review our shots. The children were definitely my favourite part of visiting villages, as they were so friendly and cute. You were always sure to make a few new friends if you smiled and took their photos.

In the last village we visited a little guy, of about five years old,  became my friend every time I pointed the camera in his direction. He had the most infectious laugh and would burst into giggles every time I showed him a photo of himself.

Because of the low levels of tourism in Odisha getting candid shots of folks going about their daily business is quite pain free. Once you go into bigger cities and areas that have seen consistent tourist traffic getting pictures of locals usually comes with requests for large sums of money and being followed by a small mob of people begging, which can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned of tourists. That being said we always tried our best to ask folks if we could take a picture of them. 

One of my favourite shots of the trip came when a man in the silk weaving village stopped mid teeth brushing to stare at me. After approximately two minutes of uninterrupted staring I decided to take a portrait shot to which he and his buddies began to laugh. The shot shows him just before the laughter sets in  with the toothbrush hanging out of his right hand mouth all white with toothpaste foam.  

Travelling to the most rural parts of India gave me a different perspective on the country and offered lots of wonderful opportunities to practice my portrait photography skills. Although I don’t think rural travel is for me, I like regular access to showers and toilets, I would definitely say this was a once in a lifetime opportunities that left me with some vivid memories. 

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