As we were planning our trip to South East Asia last year, my wife and I began talking about what we could do during our trip to repay the kindness of strangers that so very often comes your way when traveling. Travel often involves gaining experiences we couldn’t get at home and bringing them back to share with our people. We wanted to leave behind memories that would last and constantly remind the people that we met of our shared experiences, just as our photographs would do for us when we got home. So why not give those photographs to these people then and there?
I did some research and came across a lot of different options for printing 4×6 prints on the road, but these printers were just far to bulky and heavy to carry around for the three months we’d be walking around South East Asia. In the end I came across the Polaroid Pogo printer, which led me to the Dell Wasabi. Neither of these produce the quality of a dedicated 4×6 photo printer, but we didn’t need that sort of quality. All we needed was a small printer that would allow us to hand out memories on paper.
We went with the Dell in the end (Wasabi vs. Pogo? The choice was easy.), and took about 200 sheets of paper with us. A couple of hours on charge and this little guy gave us between 10 and 15 prints, depending on the resolution of the files – transfer times tend to drain the battery significantly. This was perfect for a day out traveling. If we made a portrait at any point during the day, we printed it immediately and gave it to the subject then and there. We could not have prepared ourselves for the reaction these prints would get, however.
The First Print
We took the printer out for the first time after making a portrait of the young man who made our breakfast at Indein Market, Inle Lake, Myanmar. He smiled widely as I handed him the print, and ran off across the marketplace and handed it to a woman I guess was his mother. He returned to his duty shortly after and we ordered another bowl of his noodles. As we ate, we noticed that the print was making its way around the market, and people began waving to us from every direction. The print finally made its way to the elderly woman who had been sitting on the other side of the noodle broth tending to the tea that comes with all meals in Myanmar. She regarded the print, returned it to the boy, and gestured me over. She wanted a photograph as well. She was smoking the handmade cigars that seem to be the staple diet for the older generation at Inle Lake, and I made her portrait with the cigar as you see below. After receiving the print, she quickly put it on the table and thanked us with a smile and a nod. We sat down to finish our breakfasts, and once we looked away, she carefully picked up the print and continued to regard it for the duration of our meal before tucking it safely into her breast pocket and waving us goodbye.