“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

October 30th, 2011 by | Tags: | No Comments »

In a history of photography course, I learned a very valuable quote by a photographer named, Robert Capa, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”


I value this quote because because I relate to it not only as a photographer, but also as a traveler who truly wants to experience the culture up close.  We can learn about the cultures of other places from our home through reading and watching the news, reading books, watching documentaries, and talking with friends and families.  However, we truly do not understand the culture until we are “close enough” and by this means, we are experiencing the culture in person.

For instance, I often hear in the media that France is a beautiful country with vineyards providing rich wine, beautiful architecture, and delicious cheese, croissants and tarts.  Prior going to France and staying with a host family, I knew that many French people loved cooking and went home from work or school for two hours for lunch everyday.

After several trips to France and staying with many host families, I learned a valuable lesson that I did not learn while living in my country and that is family gatherings are truly important in the French culture.  I often saw in all homes that all families came together for lunch and dinner and discussed about the day, news and issues.  By sitting with the family and enjoying the scrumptious French food, I experienced discussing various topics with them and observing families bonding with each other.

Prior to my trip to Peru, I read that Peru is not only rich in the history of Incas, but also it is a developing country where infrastructure is lacking.  However, when I lived there with a Peruvian host family, I learned that in spite of economic and infrastructure issues, the country presents a rich culture that includes art, music and cuisine.  The textile which includes table clothes, sweaters, purses, and scarves are stunning and fashionable.  Peruvians happily chant and play musical instruments on the streets while beautiful paintings are displayed in galleries throughout the city of Cusco.  People are living to the fullest.

Prior to my visit to China, I often heard in the media that Chinese are suffering from lack of freedom speech and a number of websites being banned, they’re constantly being watched by the government and living in the life of communist is very unpleasant.  When I traveled to China, I learned that this is not always the case.  While Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are banned, there are still a huge number of websites, which Chinese can access.  In fact, Chinese have their own version of Facebook and YouTube, which are named differently, that they can access.  Chinese people are free to discuss political issues in the public with their friends including speaking about issues which they disagree with the government.  They are not constantly being watched by the government at all times, and in fact, the US government do watch us, the Americans, on the internet as they have arrested people for downloading music illegally, have asked Google to take certain sites down, and the US State Department followed me on Twitter at one point.

A mother is playing with a child at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia.

A mother is playing with a child at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia.

By getting up close experiences of different cultures, I learn to gain greater appreciation rather than fear them.  As a photographer, I love going up to people and asking them to take pictures of themselves rather than using a zoom lens and taking pictures of them from distance.  As a result, my pictures are better when I am close them because they depict my close encounter with humans who provided me invaluable lessons about their culture and lifestyle.

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