Can I Give Your Picture?

Nepal2011-1001-0530“Can I take your picture?”

This refrain echoes along the popular tourist trails around the world every day of every year. When we travel, we are often confronted with scenery and people so different than ourselves that those of us with a photography bent to life want to save an image of what we see or experience. “Can I take your pictures?” is the polite way to approach fellow humans before snapping their image.

My main problem with this phrase is it is a one way street. “Can I take your picture and likely offer you nothing in return?” is how it would be better phrased. Often people don’t mind at all and will pose; proud of their dress or their country or their family. But what if you instead offered to give instead of simply take?

To that end, I started exploring options that allow me to print out photos while traveling. I find that a lot of people I meet, in areas like Nepal, don’t have many photos of themselves. This makes the proposition of asking for a photo even more skewed to me. In my research I found that Polaroid was offering a mobile printer that spit out 2”x3” sticky back prints in about 40 seconds from something called a Pogo Printer. It could print 10-15 images on a single charge. Not the ideal battery life, but far better than nothing.

I found the printer on sale and snatched up 60 sheets of paper at about $.60 each. I was super excited to take this printer on my current six week trip to Asia until I found out the paper was hard to come by because the printer is being discontinued. Alas, I had what I thought was an ample supply of paper for my trip, maybe.

Nepal2011-1001-0531And how wrong was I? In the first week of this six week trip I have blown through 45 photos without trying to hard. Many want a second copy for a loved one. Sometimes I get three kids in one photo, requiring one for each and one for the parents. By no means am I complaining as I am ecstatic at how well received this project has become.

“Can I give your picture” or more properly worded, “Can I give you a picture?” is going to be a common refrain on my travels from this point forward. Ang Maya, the little girl in this photo is one of the reasons why. We had no common language but through pointing and an interpreter, I was able to take her portrait. She was still curious as I hooked up the Pogo directly to my camera. The look on her face when she realized an actual picture was slowly emerging was priceless and will be with me always.

I want to give that joy to others instead of just snapping an image and disappearing from their lives.

If anyone out there has a contact at Polaroid, or another portable printer company, I’d love to talk with your contact about how I can get my hands on the latest, greatest (not discontinued) printer possibly before the end of this trip. I have many more lives to meet and touch and I’d love to leave them with some thing special most of us take for granted: a simply photograph.


NOTE: While on this trip I am also distributing photos I shot last year, printed at home and am now able to hand over to the smiling subjects I met in the past. I will continue to do that as long as I travel back to Nepal and other countries. Having a portable printer simply makes it easier to make sure the people I meet aren’t missed in the future.

5 Replies to “Can I Give Your Picture?”

  1. Marie

    Thats such a cool idea! If I ever get to travel I might follow your lead:) as for printers I know that canon has a little portable one that spits out 4x6s. I cant remember what its called or if it will even work for you but suggestions never hurt right? Good luck!

  2. Bosleywoof

    Read your article with interest as I have just been travelling around Japan, and found myself in the same position. Just out of interest have been suring the net and there appears to be quite a number of places in Australia that sells the polaroid printer and Zink paper. No mention of discontinuation of the printer, either?
    Love the photo’s and the site, and really appreciate this article. It is always good to give something back…

  3. Walter Pace

    The pogo printer and paper are available from,, and a large list of dealers is on the Polaroid website.

  4. Jeffrey Willius

    Peter — I’m so glad I’ve stumbled across your site — and especially this post. I love this twist on the ubiquitous question, and it captures so well a concept I’ve been trying to promote regarding how we experience anything. Not just people, but also ourselves and Nature.
    I call it “seeing generously,” the notion that to experience anything fully, you have to give something of yourself. Your idea of giving a picture is such a great example — thanks for sharing it!

  5. Paul Woo Hoogenstyn

    I saw this post back a in October and as I started shooting more at my site I realized that Ghanaians love to have their picture taken but they don’t have any physical photos of themselves (they’re all stored on mobile phones). I couldn’t stop thinking of the idea from your blog and now I’m on my way to buying a portable printer with some donation money I received for a secondary project. Thanks again for the idea,

    PCV, Ghana 2011-2013

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