This post comes as a welcome break from the more travel oriented posts about our time in Beijing. While Betty did some real work in Shanghai, I spent my time on assignment shooting at the various farms and greenhouses we visited in the suburbs an hour outside of Shanghai.
While Betty was occupied talking about gerberas and tissue culture, as well as being the company’s official translator from Mandarin into English, I occupied my time with camera in hand! Language barrier running at an all-time high way out here in rural China, I did my best to communicate nonverbally.
Most of the time I made things work using the simple action of smiling and saying “photo? Photo?” while raising the camera up a bit. As Rick Sammon loves to say, “the camera looks both way,” and this is even more important when you can’t really communicate with your subject!
Smiling and being friendly goes a long ways of course, and most farmers were more than happy to let me snap a few shots of them working and smiling back at me. Did some people say no? Of course they did, and I respected that and didn’t push more for a photo. Once you start walking around and show them your kind nature and desire to capture them in the best light, people really opened up.
Showing the results of the capture from the back of the camera really impressed some of these ladies and gentlemen of rural Shanghai. I’m not sure if they have ever really had a “professional” photo taken of them, and granted the working situation was rather quick and rough – a few of the shots here and there really stood out and connected with my subject as well.
Get out there and shoot if you’re on vacation in a foreign land. Don’t be afraid to take that photo and make a connection with your subject. Through my time photographing the farmers of rural China, this lesson really hit home with me. I just wish I took more people photos in the other areas of China we visited!