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Tanzanian Portraits

Whenever I travel, I typically have primary and secondary goals in mind. For my trip to Tanzania, my primary goal was photographing wildlife. My secondary goal however was more social in nature, and it involved the people of Tanzania. The only way to truely say you've been somewhere is by taking the time to talk to the indigenous people in order to better understand their customs and culture. The principal challenge of course is when you cannot speak the local language: it's not easy to learn about a culture when you can't communicate!

Elder in Arushian market

Lucky for me, my Massai guide was willing to enable both of my photography goals and was therefore happy to be my translator, answer my many questions and happy to talk about his culture. Creating that healthy channel of communication early on and showing genuine interest in the country that you are visiting is beneficial on several fronts. First, it allows for a more natural dialogue during the monotonous portions of a game drive (note: you can spend large portions of your day without seeing anything noteworthy). Second, you can easily develop long-lasting friendships with locals, which makes a return trip that much more likely and a more social affair. Lastly, the newfound knowledge can enriche your life.

The featured picture of the Elder was taken in Arusha during my first full day in Tanzania. Of all the pictures from Arusha, that is my favorite. That said, I wish I had had more time in the markets to be honest, as the "vibe" was fantastic, I felt safe, and the picture opportunities were numerous. I do plan on going back, and will dedicate more time to photographing Tanzanian people when I do.

You will then notice that this picture portrait is followed by many pictures of kids. Some of these were shot as we were driving by them, while others were taken when we purposely stopped alongside the road to give them food. According to our guide, it's not that "their bellies weren't full", it's that you can't keep a Maasai child away from food very easily: they like to eat, and we were more than happy to give them food while on our way back to the tented camps. One of the most interesting drive-by pictures is of five recently circumcised Maasai boys. They are the ones with white paint on their faces. The paint is applied during the days following the procedure in order to hide them from women. Circumcision is a rite of passage for the Maasai, and entails many traditions and ceremonies - luckily all explained in detail by our guide.

Associated collection

Tanzanian Game Drives