Have you ever paid to take a photo

I did something that I’m not proud of and I still feel guilty about it.

I might have well worn a bright red shirt emblazoned in bold lettering across the front “Westerner” because as I stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone stared or looked at me longer than necessary. This was Davao city, home of the President of the Phillipines which had been labelled as one of the most dangerous cities due to the countries war on drugs however, what I found was entirely different to what the worlds media was reporting.

Everyone who I interacted with were the opposite to how they had been portrayed, they were normal people trying to make their way in life. Pay bills, put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads and make sure their kids get an education. Pretty much like the rest of us except for two old ladies that I tried to photograph.

They saw me, I saw them and I had already decided that I was going to take their photo but every time I brought the camera up to eye level, they both turned away from me so I couldn’t see their faces, but when the camera was lowered they had their hands out wanting money.

This went on for several minutes and what seemed the only way to capture an image was to surrender and give them money.  So with 20 pesos in one hand and the camera in the other I managed to capture this shot and I tried to photograph the other woman but she wasn’t having anything to do with it and continued to turn away from the camera when pointed in her direction.

Begging

The 20 Pesos quickly vanished into thin air and again they both asked for money however neither were going to allow me to take another photo. Turning to walk away I noticed that I had been watched by a woman, who was well dressed and had a look of scorn on her face. In any language I knew, in her books what I had done was wrong and I shouldn’t have handed over any money nor should I have taken their photo. She didn’t say anything as I passed but the feeling of her stare drilling holes in my back as I walked away is not something that is easy to forget.

To this day, I’m not sure why but there is lingering guilt over paying the 20 pesos, this might be due to the scorn from the local woman or something else. I don’t think I’ll ever know.

What do you think, Is my guilt about paying money justified?

Happy Shooting

The Brandy of Distinction

I often wander the streets of Sydney looking for interesting subjects to photograph when I noticed this guy sitting with his two dogs in the entrance to St James train station. What caught my eye was the sign directly behind him and the sheer number of people who simply ignored him as they went about their lives.

dsc01019

Normally I don’t like to photograph people who are homeless for many reasons and the main reason is that I don’t want to or seem to be taking advantage of them but I couldn’t resist asking him if he minded if I took his photo.

Walking up to him, I stuck my hand out and introduced myself, asking him about his dogs and he told me their names and  that one was the mother and the other the daughter but for the life of me I can’t remember which. The blue heeler that he is holding growled at me but the blue heeler at his feet didn’t mind a pat. He put down his harmonica and let me take this photo. I asked him if he minded if I took his photo. Much to my surprise he said yes.

I only took two photos and showed him the end result on the LCD screen. He said was pretty happy with the results and after a few more minutes of talking to him, I shook his hand, threw a few dollar coins in and left. Since I have downloaded the image and processed it I have this desire, this want to print the image in a decent size, say 12×10 and then give it to him. He won’t be able to eat or drink the photo but I think the problem I’ll have is finding him again to give him the photo.

I think it paid off walking up to him and speaking to him. What do you think?

 

Davao City, Home of the President

Red Umbrella

From a Westerners perspective the news has not been positive about the Phillipines with reports of running gun battles between police and drug dealers. The implementation of controversial laws and the lack of justice afforded to the alleged criminals which were swiftly condemned by commentators throughout the world. Many were also concerned by the way the Phillipines have handled the situation. The President of the Phillipines, President Duterte has also spoken publicly on many occasions about his countries relationship with the US. He has called the US and other nations many names even levelling some of his most harshest comments directly at head of state including calling the US President a “A Son of a Whore“!

Waving Woman

With these types of comments and the worlds media painting the country in a extremely bad light would lead you to believe that the Phillipines is a lawless place ruled by gun toting police with drug dealers and users on every corner battling it out every day. So I wondered what the people of Davao City, home of the President would actually be like. Is it really that bad?

What I found turned out to be the opposite in most cases, there are several large shopping malls in Davao City with the usual fast food outlets including McDonalds and variations of Burger King and KFC, just when you order a meal you will get a serve of rice instead of fries. Generally everyone is pretty friendly, even with a language barrier. Some people speak English to a reasonable level which always make it easier when you are trying to order food.

Davao City, Phillipines

Smoking in public (in Davao City) has been banned for some time and this means that everywhere you go is now smoke free however the smokers are now in the dark corners of the Davao City where the drug dealers and users used to hide. Something that would have most smokers up in arms in most Western countries is that the President is considering implementing the smoking in public ban nationwide.

Beats

Security is pretty heavy everywhere you go, including shopping centres. Security will search your belongings by hand and have you walk through a metal detector (with your belongings) then be patted down, but it doesn’t stop there, security can also check you on the way into a shop and and then again out of the shop. I’ve never been searched or felt up so much before in my life, It does make you feel safe but it really does become annoying pretty quickly. Unfortunately the level of security has probably come about due to a terrorist bombing in the night markers which killed 14 people and wounded 70 people in September.

AFP Soldier

As with most countries there is always the less fortunate people but in Davao City they were more obvious. I say ‘Less Fortunate’ because some people have a place to live, its just that they live in a shanty town made from corrugated iron and plywood.  Some have to resort to begging to get enough money to buy food and they range in age as well. On one occasion I was approached by a young girl who would not been any older than 4 years old holding her younger siblings hand. It wasn’t a pretty sight at all especially as the younger sibling would have been less than 2 years of age. She stuck her hand out wanting money but as I pulled my camera up to my eye, she turned her head so I couldn’t photograph her. She persisted begging for money from me but every time I tried to take a photo she turned her head. This exchange lasted for no more than 20 or 30 seconds and they disappeared into the crowd and was gone.  I visited the same location a few times over the 2 weeks to see if the little girl would return however I never saw her again.

Begging

but the less fortunate know no bounds as they will walk a line of traffic stopped at lights begging, when the windows don’t get rolled down they press their face hard against the glass trying to see in. I was informed that vehicle doors have been opened in the past as well. Not sure if this tactic has ever made a difference or what they are trying to achieve but they all did just that at some stage.

Yellow Man

Some people scratch their livings out of the dirt everyday by either establishing improvised restaurants, selling cheap stuff on the side of the footpath or begging while the other half is employed in industries such as farming, retail or hospitality. It certainly is a city of two extremes.

you want some traditional chicken

So Davao City, home of the President of the Phillipines turned out to be somewhat different to what has been reported in the media. People were friendly and helpful. Nearly everyone was more than happy to have their photo taken. Never witnessed any running gun battles between the Police and Drug Dealers.  What I did  find though was a city that was relatively clean and had people from two walks of life, those with the “Have” and those with the “Have Not”

The Sewing Man

Would I visit Davao City again, the answer is yes I would but it would be to photograph the people and the way they live and work. I find that its an interesting place with interesting people which is worth photographing and documenting.

Note: At this point I should warn that anyone travelling to countries such as the Phillipines should always exercise caution and a degree of personal safety as Kidnap for Ransom and Terrorism still occurs in countries such as the Phillipines.

What do you want me to be ?

This guy was certainly an interesting character. I approached him and asked him for a photo ? His immediate response what do you want me to be ? I must have had a strange look on my face because he said, I can be homeless, a biker or a mean dude. He did tell me that he is asked on a regular basis for photos and many people have asked him to be something like a biker or a homeless guy.

I asked him to just be himself.

What do you want me to be