I love taking photos when I travel and travel portraits in particular because people are always the star attraction of any great travel experience.
No matter how beautiful the scenery or how interesting the culture if the people aren’t warm and welcoming then your travel experience will be lacking.
Zimbabwe’s a great place for taking travel portraits because the people are incredibly friendly, they wear bright clothes and, even though most Westerners may think people in Zimbabwe don’t have a lot to feel happy about, their smiles are dazzling.
Many Zimbabweans have been dealing with political problems, poverty and all the problems associated with that for a lifetime. Yet they are still friendly, smiley and welcoming so opportunities to take great travel portraits abound.
Here are a few of travel portraits I took while travelling round Zimbabwe last year. Many of these photos were taken at the markets in the high-density urban area of Mbare in Harare or in the less high-density but still heavily-populated residential suburb of Kuwadzana where my former student Sunwell lives.
I hope you enjoy these travel portraits from Zimbabwe and the travel portrait tips below.
Shoppers at Mbare Market
People stare if you carry your bag on your head in Australia but transporting bags or even buckets of water on your head is one of my favourite memories of Zimbabwe.
Striking a pose comes naturally to Zimbabweans
Mbare Market stall holders and artisans
Sunwell was one of my students when I taught at a primary school in rural Zimababwe in 1992. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favourites but I always had a soft spot for Sunwell. You can see a photo of him back then here.
There was a terrible drought in Zimabwe that year and everyone in that community of subsistence farmers suffered. It was hard for me to see children starving and people of all ages dying prematurely, harder still for the families battling to survive in that environment.
But I never forgot Sunwell and a few years ago he tracked me down on Facebook. It was magical and healing to see him again, now all grown up with children of his own. Sunwell’s a big Manchester United fan and here he is in his Man U strip for a photo op outside the small house he shares with three other families.
Fressy – Sunwell’s wife
Sunwell and Fressy’s son Tanaka
Little Genevieve, Sunwell and Fressy’s daughter
One of their housemates
A neighbor peering through the fence to see what all the excitement’s about
Safari guide Reggie
Harare residents use the dusty field behind the Rainbow Towers Hotel as a short cut. I hung out there a lot chatting with people and taking photos of them. The red earth and cloudless sky makes a stunning backdrop.
Tips for Taking Travel Portraits
1. Always ask if you can take people’s photo – you can just point your camera at people and give them a questioning thumbs up to see if they’re okay having their photo taken if you can’t speak their language.
2. If people don’t want their photo taken don’t take it.
3. If people do want their photo taken always take it even if you don’t think they’ll make a great photo. You don’t want anyone to feel left out.
4. Markets and festivals are great for portraits.
5. Get up early or take your photos in the late afternoon to catch the best light.
6. Take your time and talk to people before you take their photo. Sometimes people are shy but once they get to know you a bit they might feel more comfortable having their photo taken.
7. Offer to email people their photos and do it. Get them to jot down their email address in your notebook and immediately write down a description like ‘yellow Hawaiian shirt man at market’ so you can send the right photo to the right person.
8. Protect your belongings because you look like an obvious tourist when you’re taking photos and you’re distracted so at risk. Just take your camera with you on photo walks and leave everything else in your hotel room or safe.
Do you like taking travel portraits?