OK to Take Picture?

Candid and not-so-candid photos of people in a country poorer than your originating country: to take or not to take? Originally, or at least from some vantage points, this can be seen as journalism or shining light onto an issue or cause. At what point does it become rude or, worse, possibly inhibit the socioeconomic growth of a country? A bit extreme, maybe, but the more I travel, the more I see western folk with their big, fancy cameras, taking a photo of a woman trying to sell bananas in a developing country. When was the last time you went to a supermarket to take photos of the cashier? Or the guy at the deli while he's toasting your bagel? They'd probably fire off a few swear words if you tried snapping a photo of them. Infringement of privacy and that sort of thing--though that wouldn't hold up in a court case anyway.

Understanding that it's my human curiosity and wonder that finds other cultures and different ways of doing mundane tasks intriguing, I still find it awkward to take a picture of people doing everyday tasks just because it looks different for me. This doesn't mean I haven't--I certainly have. I just don't always feel great about it.

People here seem to not mind having their picture taken as long as you buy something. Others don't want to guest star in your Flickr or Picasa stream at all. A final group ask you to buy something or otherwise ask for a donation if you intend on taking a photo. The exchange of goods or money for a photo seems acceptable on the surface and in many cases, probably fine altogether. One of my previous posts includes a photo of dough being fried by the woman that also sold me a little bag of them. I bought them because I wanted them and because I wanted a photo of her technique. Maybe the picture would have been better had I included her surroundings and set up, but I felt that taking a photo of her and her son in her home would exploit them in a way. What if her son grows up thinking that all he needs to do is pose for tourists to make money? What kind of a nation and society does that build?

At the same time, I am curious and do want a record of the things I have seen and how people live in other parts of the world. I'm fortunate to have this chance to see all of this and I would like to reflect on them later in life, either from the standpoint that my memory might get a bit fuzzy or just to see how things have changed over time. Anyway... a few photos of the people of Vietnam, conflicted as I might be:
Stink Eye
Glad I was able to get these two: chatting away... on matching scooters
Roadside barber shop

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