Ethical Travel Get Out There

In the Land of Baby Elephants: Photo Essay


Photographing children is not without it’s challenges. You have to have the shutter finger of a sports photographer to capture the silly things and fun moments.

 As a vice principal who happens to love photography, I have become the sort of defacto official school photographer.  I shoot for the yearbook, the school website, newspaper, school promotion etc. Kids are great models because they are so emotionally honest. They don’t hide emotions, as adults often do.   And they often love to be in front of the camera!

Photographing children is not without it’s challenges.  You have to have the shutter finger of a sports photographer to capture the  silly things and fun things, especially when shooting groups.  I would recommend working to build trust with the children.

*It is  important to foster  an exchange with kids; ask before snapping a photo, and definitely play a game or show the picture to them afterwards.  If you are in a community long term, get the pictures developed at a nearby store and give it to the families.  This may be the first picture they have owned, and can use it to document their child’s growth over the course of time.  

Akha girl in the mountains of Chiang Rai Province, Thailand.

Young monk falls behind the group during daily alms walk in Luang Prabang, Laos.

While cycling around Siem Reap, Cambodia, I met a young man outside the west entrance to Angkor Thom who invited me to his humble home to share coconut water and meet his family. He introduced me to his mother and siblings and showed me the little area behind his home where he teaches the village children English. Essentially, his makeshift school consists of a small blackboard tied to a tree and a few little stones and stumps that serve as chairs. This is his younger brother.

When I saw these boys in the window of their house on the banks of the mighty Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia, the scene immediately reminded me of one of those 3D children’s books with the little pop-up windows. I love the makeshift shrine and offerings hanging from the outer wall and the boat and hammock hanging inside.


People are always so focused on the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia that they often overlook the people who live, work, and play in the area. This young boy tending to his younger sibling was on his way to meet some friends for a swim in the moat of Angkor Wat.


Wearing traditional costume in Khao Phansa celebration in Patttaya, Thailand.

Frozen in time during Khao Phansa celebration, Pattaya, Thailand.

Boys relaxing at Savong Orphan Center. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Paddling a canoe through the canals of Kamphong Phluk, Cambodia, a fishing village on stilts on the banks of Tonle Sap Lake.

Local children goof around for the camera. Kamphong Phluk is a very poor fishing village on the banks of Tonle Sap Lake. The houses are built on stilts to allow for the fluctuation of water levels during the rainy season. Access to basic healthcare is limited at best. Many of the children have very bad teeth as a result of drinking contaminated water. Despite these and other hardships, the children are children after all and love to have fun.

When I saw this young girl standing in front of a fishing net-draped boat painted with the Cambodian flag’s colors, I immediately grabbed my camera and snapped a few frames, in an instant, the moment was gone. Kamphong Phluk, Cambodia.

Marcos de Castro
Marcos de Castro is an educator, musician and photographer. He works as vice principal of a public middle school in the Bronx, New York where he currently resides. Striving to transcend ordinary travel photography, Marcos attempts to capture the true spirit and culture of the people in the places he visits.

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