No, would be our easy answer as with regards photographing local people in Burma! Increasingly in Burma’s tourist hotspots, you will see local people posing for photographs in return for money and to our minds, this is a habit that shouldn’t be encouraged. If you don’t want your photo taken then suffice to say so; we don’t feel it should be a financial transaction, though the recent proliferation of posing locals shows it obviously works and certain tourists do give money.
Fishermen now wait at the entrance to Inle Lake for tips or old women pose with huge cigars in front of Bagan temples. Locals will wait for photos on U Bein Bridge and even worse monks will now request money for photographs in certain busy temples. (Note, most locals I’ve talked to find the latter deeply offensive.)
Yes they can render themselves extremely photogenic and it can be very tempting but you’ll see similar, and non-posed scenes in less-visited spots around the corner. We took the above 2 images more discreetly with a longer lens. Yes, a bit sneaky but….win some lose some – plenty of other visitors were giving money. Careful with this technique though, you could get yourself into trouble!
We made an exception for the Inle fisherman above who actually spent about 10 minutes demonstrating his rowing and fishing techniques and put on a great show so we called this ‘busking’ and, feeling he deserved it, did give him a tip. (Yes there can be a lot of ethical grey areas here!)
You’ll currently only really see this, as we said, at the most popular tourist destinations though even 2 or 3 years ago you hardly came across it at all. We wouldn’t want to see it proliferate and so wouldn’t want to encourage it. There are better ways of photographing local people in Burma.