Portraits from Arunachal

One of the things that I have struggled the most as an introvert is approaching people. Be it asking for a direction, starting a conversation or even ordering the food in a restaurant … If I have an option to avoid the situation- I will! Always.

Now, when it comes to photography, this behavior doesn’t matter while clicking landscapes or wildlife. But when it comes to clicking portraits there are two problems. First, I find it very rude to click a non candid portrait without the person’s permission and secondly, I lack the guts to approach the person to ask for a permission. So most of my travel portraits are either candid or clicked when the other person showed interest in getting clicked after seeing a big camera.

While traveling to Tawang, I decided to break out of my shell and approach people for photos. Because honestly, I fell in love with the people of Arunachal Pradesh with every passing mile.

Of course, I went back in my shell after a few unimpressive attempts.

The people in these Tibetic parts of the state mostly belong to the Monpa community. These people are as beautiful as their land. They are extremely warm, welcoming and beaming with some inexplicable contentment. There is an interesting blend of population still following the traditional lifestyle and the one adapting to modern lifestyle. With tourism and access to technology, the lives in these parts are changing faster than ever. Most people here understand English / Hindi so communication is not a problem. For some reason, many of them especially from the young generation are fascinated by Mumbai. As is the case with most of the north eastern communities, the society follows matriarchal system here. The women can be seen doing every possible work many of which are often considered as men’s tasks. Our urban minds accustomed to patriarchal norms shuddered when we saw our luggage carried to our rooms by teenage girls. However for them, it is as natural as cooking or cleaning.

It was an extremely enriching experience to observe, interact and photograph these lovely souls. I hope these portraits bring a smile on your face as they do for me!

tibetan monk
A Buddhist monk continuing with his routine prayers on a rainy morning at Tawang monastery
monpa woman
A woman dressed in a traditional attire pauses in surprise to see an acquaintance walking towards her.
Children of arunachal pradesh
Intense discussions
boy at Tawang
A boy enjoying all the attention from the camera
Tawang monastery
two young monks being brats at the Tawang monastery
tawang monastery
An old devotee spinning big wooden prayer wheels in a small prayer room at Tawang monastery
women of Arunachal pradesh
Women returning from the Tawang monastery with babies tied in a traditional way to their backs.
Young monks playing chess
Young monks playing chess at Chilipam monastery
A young monk with his football
A young monk with his football at Chilipam monastery
A boy living in a small house near Sela pass practicing slingshot
children at dirang dzong
The houses at Dirang dzong are inhabited by tribal people. The children here can be both endearing and menace since they show around you the place and then ask for money or candy.
girl at dirang dzong
a young girl at Dirang Dzong playing alone. She was too shy to join the boys who had surrounded us to show around.

If you enjoyed these photos, you may also want to check out about my Journey to Tawang and Exploring Tawang!

If you have any tips of striking a conversation with strangers on a strange land then please share them in the comments below! I am all ears! 🙂


  1. amazing captures !! love all …

  2. Great captures, Madhura. I have started doing a lot of street photography and I feel people are generally okay in getting their pictures clicked.

  3. Well selected beautiful photos. Thank You.

  4. Brilliant pictures and lovely write up too, Madhura! I must say, you got a keen eye for capturing such wonderful candids…what a great joy all these pictures!

  5. This pictures took me to tawang

  6. These are a wonderful glimpse into another world! I agree approaching strangers is difficult and if you do then you get an awkward smile. Most professionals have guides who interact with the locals regularly so sometimes it’s worth paying for a local to help you interact. You did great without one!

    • Thank you so much Tina for your kind words! 🙂 Funnily, it never occurred to me that I could use some local help to interact with the locals. But again, I am just an enthusiast, haha 🙂 I will definitely keep this in mind during my next trip.

  7. Ahh! Beautiful! What you say goes for me as well. I have yet to ask somebody for a permission. And thank you for the follow!

  8. I totally understand. I am too shy to ask for photographs during my journeys. It has always been a great struggle for me…

  9. Pricesless photo of the monkey monks flinging shoes haha

  10. I can totally relate the very two sentences of this blog…