Cuba street photography

Photo Essay: Talking Hands

Black and White, Photo Essay, Street Photography

When taking street photos in Mexico and Cuba, I realized that everyone seems to be talking with their hands. The expressive Latinos would have a very difficult time communicating with their hands tied behind their backs, it seems.

If you really want to see a Mexican or Cuban talk with their hands, ask them directions. The ever-helpful locals will show you where to go with arms flying in a hundred different directions. Pay close attention or you will be totally confused. You can also ask them about fútbol or Trump to get a similar reaction.

When shooting street photos, I try to look for energy and action, and so capturing these moments of body language became a bit of an obsession. Luckily, subjects were not in short supply.

Mexico and Cuba Street Photography

Click any photo to open a slideshow view

Do you have any photo obsessions? 

When you read the word Trump, did your arms fly around violently? 

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

50 thoughts on “Photo Essay: Talking Hands”

  1. Very expressive people. I know several French Canadians who could give them a run for their money in the hand gesture department.

  2. Lots of animations there. The only comparable obsession for me might be wildlife butt shots! Are you picking up the hand gestures?

    • Are butt shots something you seek or something you just get? Yes, I learned to make myself understood by throwing my hands around for sure, especially because my Spanish needs a little visual help.

    • Greeks seem like people who definitely talk with their hands. Very expressive people. Thank you for commenting!

  3. that traveling nurse says:

    Awesome shots Jeff! I loved that old man in the bike/taxi. Was he talking to someone passing by? And that shot you did of the old woman sitting in the middle of the sidewalk while everybody was walking past her. Okay, time to share your camera settings here… 🙂 Btw, I talk with my hands too. 😉

    • I think the man in the bike taxi was talking to the pedaler/driver, but I don’t think the pedaler was paying attention.

      For the beggar lady, I was on an overhang and people walked under where I was to get into the subway. She plopped down right in the middle of the traffic and held out her hand. Ordinarily, I don’t take photos of beggars or homeless people, but I thought this was poignant. I set it to about a 1/15 shutter speed and used the 2 second timer to avoid camera shake and placed the camera down on the ledge. The result is the people slightly blurred, which gave the effect I wanted of people in a hurry as she was in one spot asking for help.

      • that traveling nurse says:

        Brilliant! I love how you get so many great street shots specially when it requires technical skills (such as requiring a slow shutter speed and a tripod) and you instantly get a ledge for you to set your camera. 🙂 I was also going to say beggar but changed it to old lady because I didnt want to presume.

      • I need to invest in one of those little gorilla-pod tripods. They wrap around railings or street sign poles and would probably be more useful than a real tripod!

      • that traveling nurse says:

        Yeah I’ve seen them. I have a little mini gorilla one. But haven’t really tried it on my DSLR as I’m afraid it wont hold up!

      • I doubt it would work on a DSLR. I bought a mirror less Fuji before the trip and I love it. I use it 95% of the time now. The gorilla pod should hold something small.

      • I have a friend who has a gorilla pod, and says they are sturdier than you think! I have a mirrorless, so I reckon one would be most useful!

  4. Lael says:

    My thing is pathways. I am always taking nine billion photos of pathways and trails.
    What\s the story behind the woman sitting down amongst the people walking?

    • Pathways and trails. I like those too, especially in the forest.

      The was in front of an entrance to a subway and she plopped down in the traffic. I used a slow shutter speed to blur the people to give a sense of people passing by and her in one spot asking for help. I was up on an overhang above the entrance and people passed right below me.

  5. You got some great shots Jeff!
    When I read the word Trump, my synapses flew around violently! Like Selma I’d rather not hear his name.
    Photo obsessions? Yeah, capturing every darn thing I can lol.

    • In truth, I am probably the same as you when it comes to photo obsessions and trying capture everything. This world is just so cool and there are so many things that interest me, from landscapes to people to buildings.

      I hope no one was near when your arms flew around. I will do my best not to type his name again.

  6. Some VERY cool shots of people, I just don’t know how you get them. Love the motion and the still lady in the Zona Rosa!! In India, I was surprised when I asked people if I could photograph them, and they all were delighted. But then, they “posed” for me, with rigid bodies and blank expressions.
    Trump doesn’t bother me…it’s the people who may vote for him, and GW Bush (twice?!!), who bother me.

    • I know what you are saying about India. I don’t mind a smile, but a neutral expression is more natural and I like that too. But they often assume, as you say, this rigid, unnatural position which makes them look pained.

      I guess no one has voted for Trump yet. In 2 weeks we will know. I grew up in one of the most conservative areas in the country so I was surrounded my whole life. My country voted for Santorum last time in the primary!

      • I asked one guard at a bird sanctuary, and he stepped out of his guard station, took off his hat, put his glasses on then took them off, then stood almost at attention. It’s a great memory, a not so great photo!

      • More and more I just go for the candid shot. I rarely ask permission anymore. I need to work on asking permission again but being patient and charming enough to get them to relax and make a natural pose.

      • Well, I really like your candid shots. And patience and charm is not easy for me. But I was weened on not only getting permission, but having them sign a release. I’d be interested to know whether someone could sue you for posting their photo??? I just don’t know the rules for blogs about that.

      • In the USA and most countries, any photo taken in a public space is fair game to post. The NY times could go out and take a photo of a random person and put it on the front page, the blog, etc. I think the only risk would be if you used the photo to slander or libel a person.

      • Well, if that is true, then fine. But why else would I take a photo if not to slander and libel someone? Where’s the fun come in?

  7. Great street images, Jeff! How on earth you took these images without them aware – impressive! He-eh, talking about Trump..haha, I think my first year living in the US will be fun, lots of rolling eyes moment after reading the news for sure!

    • This is a very unusual year in politics, I should say. Don’t judge us by this please!!! 🙂

      I bought a little Fuji camera before the trip thinking I’d use it on occasion, and I ended up using it about 90% of the time. People rarely noticed I had it.

  8. This photo essay is really impressive, Jeff! I love that you saw a theme and started looking for shots of that while doing your street photography. What a great idea! I think I will try it the next time I am traveling somewhere interesting.
    And, yes, my hands did start flailing about when I read the name Trump. I wonder what they will do if that buffoon actually gets elected. They will probably be tied up packing my bags and making new living arrangements in a foreign country!

    • Themes for photos happen in one of two ways: 1. I see a pattern and keep looking for it and 2. As I sort through my photos I realize I have a lot of a certain type of photo by accident.

      I think we have to consider that Trump might win. Here is the question: is it better to live abroad where people will possibly make fun of us for Trump, or will it be better to take refuge in middle America and just ride this out?

      • I can’t even go there, but I am going to start working on my Canadian and Kiwi accents pronto and try to blend in as best I can, eh?

      • That is the best strategy, just blend in. Or go somewhere deep in the woods with no internet in the Congo or Papua and reemerge in 4 to 8 years, depending on how lucky you feel.

  9. I am a big hand talker but I don’t look nearly as beautiful as these gorgeous images. Usually I am knocking over wine glasses in restaurants or taking out someone’s eye while I am telling some story. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Useful Spanish Words and Phrases for Travel | Planet Bell

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