The string of pictures in Sylhet and the tea gardens is almost done - this one is on the way back. If you don't know already, the traffic jams of Bangladesh are just terrible. You can get stuck for hours, all for no reason other than the fact that there are too-many-vehicles. There is not much to do once you get stuck in this traffic, except just contemplate, which is what I was doing, and I caught a glimpse of the truck driver's face, who seemed to be doing the same thing. There is a look of defeat in his face, which I assumed I had as well, mostly because of frustruation of not being able to go anywhere.
People in the west usually think of Asia as an exotic place, just as the people in Asia think the west is exotic. The cultures are VERY different, and even within Asia, they vary to a great degree. Even the mundane picture of regular everyday life from Asia seems really exquisite and eye-catching - pictures of people are even more so. There is a little personal dilemma I have with this when doing this in a country where the people are really poor/uneducated/unaware of the potential of the pictures being taken off them. I know of many documentary/travel photographers who travel to these poorer third world countries, and take regular pictures which are then lauded in chic galleries in New York City and other cities because of its 'exotic-ness'. Most of them do little or nothing to improve the lives of the people they took a picture of and then proceeded to become famous for it. I also know of many of these photographers, who go there and stage the photographs, because nobody in the west can really tell the authenticity of the situation it was taken in. Nobody gets model releases, nobody explains to the illiterate farmer that his picture might be hanging in a fancy gallery, and people who have no idea about his life will be looking at it, and the photographer would become famous at his expense. Just look around the web and elsewhere, and pictures of dirty kids, and homeless people are abundant and somehow considered 'artsy', and I can safely say that the peoples' lives in the photographs haven't changed much. IMHO, I feel it is exploitive and opportunistic. I just don't feel right about doing that.
There are many famous photographers who have become famous this way, including Steve McCurry, whose Afghan Girl picture is one of the most recognized pictures in the world. But I do know that he went back, and searched for that girl (and found her). So, there are photographers that do it right. I love documentary photography, but doing a good job in that field requires the photographer to make a connection with their subjects. Once they do that, there is no way they will leave it behind in the same condition they found it.
I have a few pictures of people from Bangladesh, but I really don't like to shoot people in their misery, and nor do I like to get credit for taking pictures of their misery. I struggled a little bit about putting up tihs picture, but we were both pretty frustruated by the traffic at that time, so I posted it.