Even Mug Shots Can Be Enjoyable

Even Mug Shots Can Be Enjoyable

I entered the kitchen to find the light was amazing.


The weekend is over and we made up for lost time. Today was spent shooting hours of video. We are focusing on the story of young man who lost seven of his ten brothers and sisters to the tsunami. He had an amazing come back and has gone on to help thousands of families in Aceh. That is all I am going to say, as I don’t want to spoil the story for you. Around noon when we broke for lunch we received an invitation to a kenduri or feast to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday. It’s either really early or very late for 2012. According to the web calendar I checked, his birthday was Feb 4th. Anyway, it was a party and it was fun! We has all kinds of food; fish, goat, beef and all spicy hot!

The locals folks saw our cameras and immediately wanted their pictures made.  If you don’t want to become the village photographer, leave your camera in it’s bag. But I wanted to give back to these folks since they had just fed us a huge spread! So we quickly began snapping a few mug shots. There were way too many people to spend any real time roaming around looking for dynamic images. The fact was, we were on break and on someone else’s dime, we couldn’t spend all day photographing the kenduri.  Many of the images would quick “snaps” that I will print, give to the NGO and then delete off my computer. Right when I thought, this mug shot factory was getting old, we entered into the kitchen where the men were cooking (the men cook the meat and the ladies cook the veggies). It was 1:30 pm and the sun was as high as it could be – bright and harsh. But it was also bouncing off the ground and off the wooden walls and drenching the kitchen with a beautiful soft, wood kissed glow.

I love my job.


A woman preparing the vegetables for the kenduri.


The story about this woman’s region is that years back a European ship wrecked and the crew married the local women. Thus descendants with green eyes.


A member of the Party Aceh. The party made up of former freedom fighters.


This man was the first to ask for his picture to be made in the kitchen. Quite the stare.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Jack


    Beautiful work. You’re selling yourself short. Those are way more than “mug shots.” A wonderful selection of portraits.


    • Matt

      Jack, Gavin said the same thing to me over Skype last night. I guess I always consider a photograph of someone tight, without much background and without any real contexts more of a mug shot rather than an environmental portrait. Thanks for your encouraging comment.

  2. Cathy

    Yes…I’d be happy if my ‘mug shots’ came out like this.

    • Matt

      Cathy, I am sure your mug shots are just as good. Really, it was all about the light. This was what was at the heart of this post.

      • Cathy

        Yes..I see that, it is about the light. But I suppose my point was that getting portraits of people where they aren’t gurning for the camera in a self-conscious way is a skill all of its own. I am getting better at doing that, but I’m not sure I’d come away with as many relaxed portraits as you did in such a short, rushed timeframe.

        Just giving you a compliment! 🙂

        • Matt

          I’ll take any compliment I can get. 😉 Thank you!


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