People – International

Children-Nonouti - 1983

Peace Corps – 1983: Republic of Kiribati (poorly scanned slide of children on a causeway on the island of Nonouti)

October 4, 2014

Photographs in this post include people from Afghanistan, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Kiribati, Myanmar, Nepal, Rwanda, Thailand and Uganda. In selecting from hundreds of photographs I didn’t necessarily choose only those that I believed were technically superior. If I would have done so I would have only been selecting pictures from a two-year time period since I owned my Nikon D3100. I don’t think the technically “perfect” photograph is always the best, anyways. I strive for different effects and different views depending on what I want to convey – close-up, distant, blur to convey action and movement, off-center, tightly cropped, black and white, or color. In this series of photographs, you’ll see examples of those different effects and different ways of composing my subjects. I hope you feel each photograph tells its own story.

In my experience, a good close-up picture of a face taken with a 35 mm lens, or a small zoom – 18 to 55 – occurs when one or more conditions are present: they’ve had their picture taken by me enough times that the camera doesn’t impose a barrier between our natural interactions and the camera clicking in their face; the subject is naturally photogenic, enjoys having their picture taken and is comfortable in front of the camera; they enthusiastically volunteer themselves for a picture; if they don’t know me well, we’ve at least developed enough of a rapport that they feel comfortable posing for me; they are actively involved in something and don’t even know I’m taking their picture; they’re dead (you’ll see what I mean by this when you see the picture later in this series).

When I use my zoom lens – a Nikon 55-300 mm – my primary goal is to capture an individual actively engaged in their natural environment – when interjecting a camera and photographer into a particular moment may completely change the energy of what’s organically unfolding. There are a few examples of that here.

What I enjoy most about people photography is looking at a particular photo, noticing a particular look in their eyes or even just the angle of their cheek, lips or head and find myself asking, “What are they thinking?”  It’s not a past tense thing. The photo captured that moment and what “was” on their mind then will be in that photograph – etched in their eyes and on their face – forever. This question of what the subject is thinking particularly enters my mind when I’m taking photographs outside my own culture. I look at each one of these photographs and tell my own stories. Perhaps you’ll tell your own stories, too.


Proceeding alphabetically by country

⇒ Afghanistan ⇐


Children following me in the melon fields of southern Afghanistan


An Afghan elder before a shura (meeting) in the village of Loy Karez, southern Afghanistan


After the shura


Children running to meet us (me and my U.S. military protection) on our way to monitor and evaluate a water system in rural Spin Boldak district, southern Afghanistan. All they wanted were our pens, paper and flashlights.

⇒ Brazil ⇐

Brazil - Dancer

Dancer in Bahia, Brazil, where African and Latin cultures meet

⇒ Cambodia ⇐


Making friends at ancient temples in Angkor, Cambodia


Legacy of the Khmer Rouge

The legacy of genocide by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, where over 2,000,000 people were murdered in three short years. Read more about this horrible period in Cambodia’s history here. Picture taken at the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh

⇒ Colombia ⇐

01_Colombia_DancingMan  02_Colombia_DancingMan  04_Colombia_DancingMan

03_Colombia_DancingMan  05_Colombia_DancingMan  06_Colombia_DancingMan

Man dancing at a cultural festival at the Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota, Colombia


Amazonian shaman


My daughter gets to be in People (U.S) and People (International) because she’s both Colombian and American

⇒ Egypt ⇐


Seeking counsel in a Coptic church, Cairo


Joking with boys in the City of the Dead, Cairo


Sufi Dancer, old city, Cairo

⇒ Israel ⇐


Hasidic Jews talk near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

⇒ Myanmar ⇐


Women walking to the market in Rakhine State


Muslim children at a displaced persons camp in Rakhine State. Over 140,000 Muslims and Buddhists (most are Muslim) are forced to live in horrendous conditions, receiving assistance from international humanitarian agencies and the United Nations as a result of ethnic violence that broke out in 2012. The so-called “democratic” government of Myanmar has done next to nothing to resolve this issue and permit these people to peacefully return to their homes.


Boys greet me on a floating bridge leading to a pagoda in Ngapali, Rakhine State


Glorious massage from magical hands and fingers in Ngapali, Rakhine State

⇒ Nepal ⇐


Where are the men?  North of Kathmandu.

A procession of monks at the Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu

⇒ Rwanda ⇐


Karate poses, bemusement and curiosity in the mountains of Kinigi. I followed this group of boys into the village where I said I’d buy a pencil for every child in the village. The elders had to step in and manage the excitement of it all. I bought out the dark, damp hovel of a store in five minutes.

⇒ Thailand ⇐


My *very* special friend, Ton Buasri, and his family – 3 generations: mother, wife and two sons. In Mae Sot.

⇒ Uganda ⇐


Two boys in a village north of Lake Victoria

Coming Soon:

– Vermont Landscape in October

– Rock

See the full archive of photographs in this series by clicking here


All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

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