Skepticism in Street Photography

Posted January 30th, 2017 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

Skepticism vs. Luis The Wheelbarrow Poet

Trinidad street

Street in Trinidad, Cuba. Nikon D750, 24-70mm f/2.8.

I think a healthy dose of skepticism is good for everyone. Being skeptical prevents us from blindly following an ideology without researching details for ourselves. Skepticism often helps protect us from deals that are too good to be true.

In Cuba, I used a healthy dose of skepticism to stay away from street scams. For example, one of the most common scams is the guy who walks up to you and tells you that he has a bunch of Cohibas (high end Cuban cigars) in his pocket for sale at a special price. Right. I’m sure they’re legit.


My blurry grab shot of Luis on his wheelbarrow taxi. Nikon D750, 24-70mm f/2.8, handheld.

On the other hand, sometimes being skeptical gets in the way of creating great images. Case in point, I was walking through the streets of Trinidad Cuba one evening and noticed a gentleman sitting on a wooden wheelbarrow with sign that read Taxi. It was an obvious attempt at humor, but my first reaction was that this guy was trying to earn a buck from camera-toting tourists. So, I took a quick (blurry) grab shot, and kept on walking.

Before I got more than a few steps, the gentleman said, “Where are you from?” I thought to myself, “Oh great, here comes the sales pitch.” But, as I looked at him a bit closer, I could see he was genuinely interested. So, I told him I was from the USA.

He asked, “What state?”

“Washington,” I answered.

He then started telling me all kinds of facts about Washington. Details about the geography. Rivers. Proximity to Oregon and Canada. Information about Seattle, Tacoma, the state capital Olympia, the Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean, conifer trees, giant forests, and lots more. I asked him if he’s been to Washington, and he said, “No, but I’ve written a poem about Washington.”


“Hold on,” he said. He held his index finger up in the air and began rifling through a box sitting on the cart with his other hand. He pulled out 20 notebooks filled with his hand-written prose. He leafed through multiple notebooks until he found his poem on Washington and the Northwest. Then, he proceeded to read me the poem in Spanish.


Luis’ poem of Washington State. Nikon D750, 24-70mm f/2.8, ISO 5000.

After he read me his poem, I asked if I could take a picture. He said, “Of course!” What a beautiful trade. He shared his art with me and I was able to use the opportunity to create a lasting memory with a fun picture.

My lesson in all this? Don’t let skepticism prevent you from participating in a beautiful moment. I’m happy I stayed to listen and engage with my new friend Luis, The Wheelbarrow Poet.



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