Ami Vitale didn’t get to be a National Geographic photographer by just being in the right place at the right time. A tourist snapping pictures might bring home a decent souvenir, but in order to tell a story in photographs, it takes a lot more.
Although I spent a couple of days with 13-year-old Subita Devi and her family, we were never alone. She was constantly surrounded by hundreds of digital cameras. Subita told me how de-humanising the impact of eager tourists and their cameras were on her. She said this made her feel “like an animal”. No one had even said “namaste” to her. She was like the prize in the hunt for a good image. If some of the people who surrounded Subita had spent even a few hours with her, learning a bit more about her life, they would have had a story, not just images. Here Subita is carrying one of my cameras; she wanted to learn about it. I printed copies of these portraits and gave them to Subita. I find this leaves a good memento—it’s the least we can do when people open their lives to us.