PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY IN SRI LANKA: MARKETS & MOUNTAINS
Sri Lanka is a land of mystery. Peacocks roam the fields, monkeys swing on vines above the roads, and the beaches swiftly turn into jungles. Yet like many locations around the world, it isn’t the spectacular nature nor the exotic animals, which caught my eye. The cheeky, head bobbing, grinning characters of Sri Lanka make me smile just thinking about them.
I walk into a market and a weathered old man, grey hair, and beard comes rushing over to me. I’m thinking I should have left the camera in my bag it isn’t wanted here. Instead, he demands I take his photo and proceeds to make an entire scene. He pulls out his wallet throws his bank notes all over the ground and sits in the corner of his market stall. With a determined glare he stares straight down the barrel of my lens and I guess this is the moment I click the shutter.
Not satisfied with just one scene I take a few head shots as his wife smiles in the background. After reviewing my images on the playback screen he seems satisfied with his performance and my photos. I am free to roam throughout the rest of the market.
Until once more my new friend finds me in the back of the market and asks where he should stand. I ask him to stand in the middle of the aisle. Looking back at this photo I’m unsure where all the other vendors are as it was quite a busy period during the middle of the day. Somehow the photo looks like we are in an abandoned market. This photo captures a lot of emotions and a shot that I will keep as a souvenir from the day at the markets.
I wandered around the rest of the markets hearing requests from most vendors for their photo to be taken. Many of them, middle-aged men, stand straight and expressionless as I try and draw out a little character. They seemed to be taking the whole process quite serious and I went along with that tone.
All stone cold except for the last character. Who decided his photo wouldn’t be complete without holding on to a banana, which he hastily grabbed from his large stack. I’ve never seen an old man look so carefree and mischievous.
Earlier in the day, I had been trekking in the tea plantations. Often locals in cities and villages around the world shy away from the camera or despise its presence. However, in Sri Lanka, I have often experienced a desire to be photographed from many strangers. Upali and I passed by a group of women who were busy picking leaves and throwing them over their shoulder into their sacks.
This man, adorning a Sri Lanka jersey, called me back after I had passed him moments earlier. He wanted his photo taken as he looked out over the plantation he worked at.
Shooting portraits in Sri Lanka was a great experience. I have never had such a welcoming response as a photographer. I did get shooed away several times while in Sri Lanka but overall people enjoyed having their portrait taken and I enjoyed meeting all of the characters in these photos… and the people in the photos that didn’t turn out as I had hoped!