The Rohingyas On Land – Street Portrait Of A Lady

Women in the community are enterprising and contribute income to the family where they can. Many can be seen selling food, betel quids and other stuff.

Besides revenue, the corridor kiosks play an important social role. On any Sunday, it is Ladies Day. Girlfriends and female relatives socialise or connect. The street meetings are part of an informal bonding and support system.

This lady was selling the Rohingya version of ‘nasi campur’ (mixed rice). She’s holding a fly swatter. I was photographing an adjacent subject from a distance, when she covered her face with one hand and waved her swatter with the other.

I approached her and she told me she didn’t want to be photographed. Told her I wasn’t even taking her picture and I understand her concerns.

Ended up chatting with her as a result. Her name is Mariam and she is in her 40s. At the end of our conversation, I asked her if I can photograph her. She consented without hesitation, to my surprise.

Moral of the story: You can’t just waltz in and out with a camera, especially in an area where people are wary of outsiders. Spend time getting acquainted with your potential subjects, first.

When you are already acquainted and have explained your intentions, people will share their stories by themselves. Plus; when they are at ease, they look more natural and beautiful in pictures.

PS: The white dot on her eyebrow is remnant of traditional thanaka paste (bedak sejuk). It is a cultural tradition practised by both Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1000, f4, 1/200 sec.