For a while when people asked to take pictures of me, I categorically said no. It was weird, and it made me feel even more uncomfortable and self-conscious than normal. Then I started making exceptions for women and children (it's usually guys that ask, and god knows what they do with the photo afterwards), but I got annoyed with saying no all the time. People are persistent, and with the heat and humidity I didn't always have it in me to fight. So i reached a compromise of sorts: a picture for a picture.
What bothered me about being photographed by strangers (although I guess I should be grateful to the ones who actually asked my permission; others just pointed their camera phones at me surreptitiously) is the inherent objectification of the act. They only cared that I was a foreigner so that they could show me off to their friends and family. Like the men who have approached me only because I'm Asian and they have yellow fever, who I am as a person doesn't matter to them. (I have so many thoughts on this phenomenon that it's expanded into multiple drafts of several essays, which I hope to publish very soon).
But with the tables turned and my camera pointed at them, I realized I had a great creative opportunity in my hands. The first few times the photographers became the subjects, I was taken aback that they actually posed without any prompting from me. All guys, mind you. I'd been to enough tourist sites by then to know that Indian guys like to look really stoic in their photos; it always made laugh because, well, it's not a mugshot!
Inspired by one of my favorite websites, Humans of New York, I tried to talk to the subjects because every person has a story to tell. It worked better with some than with others, but my only wish is that I had taken this approach from the beginning.