While traveling for a short foray in Sri Lanka in 2010, I found myself staying in a town called Kandy and while walking down a long hilly road to town each day I would exchange “hellos” and smiles with a group of men who were working preparing some land for construction. Their tasks seemed largely to include shovels, pick axes and wheel barrows – difficult back-wrenching work. After devloping some familiarity with them, one day I stopped and asked if I could take some photographs and they assented.
Something I’ve noticed with people, all people really, is that there seems to be a universal desire to be seen, to be known, to have their value recognized and reflected. This is particularly noticeable when traveling as a photographer in parts of the world where lives of toil are commonplace and people are relegated to various levels within caste systems.
When I look at this picture, what I remember is a man who glowed from the recognition, from the contact, from being seen. He may have hammed it up for the camera with a flexed muscle, but perhaps for him, his strength is his uniqueness, and this was how he made sure that he was seen and recognized as someone special.
There are many dear and touching moments as a photographer when photographing people, and it is these that drive me out into the world to connect. I love and deeply value the opportunity to be welcomed into someone’s world, a world I know little of, and share a brief time of communion. Truth be told, I like being seen as well, and interacting through photography is a wonderful way to create a tender connection with others.