First off: GIANTS!!!!!!! World Series Champs! (Uhummm….I am based out of San Francisco you know. )
When doing presentations or just talking to other photographers about street shooting in foreign countries I get asked quite often if I pay the subjects either before or after I take a picture. Short answer is pretty much never.
First of all, if I’m dolling out the local currency, the natural dynamic of the scene changes. You suddenly have numerous children rushing at you and grabbing for your hands, pockets and photo gear. Somewhat of a mob mentality as they know you probably have limited resources and they want their piece before you run out.
That being said, I think there are a few things that you can leave behind that doesn’t involve money. For example, taking the time to show your subjects their images on the back of your camera’s LCD screen goes a long ways towards establishing a laugh or a smile. In many cases, especially in more impoverished areas, it can be the first time they’ve ever seen a picture of themselves, let alone by a westerner (at least in my case).
Greet your subject eye to eye and say “Hello”, “Good Morning”, “Thank You” in their native language with a warm smile. Simple and effective.
After being haunted by children yelling after me about 14 years ago in Morocco and the Northern Sahara screaming “un stylo” (a pen) or “un crayon” (a pencil), my final trick in the hat (I mean bag) is to present, in the case of children and teenagers, a pen or pencil. First off, they are easy to stow in your luggage and then ultimately your camera bag or pocket of your cargo pants. They’re cheap, a recent box of 50 pens I bought at the US retail chain Target cost me about 4 cents per pen.
Finally, they love them. With every smile as I hand them out I can’t help wondering if one of them will go on to be the next James Joyce or Picasso.