Photographers, on Delicious Street Food Around, the World

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As the world becomes increasingly homogenous, there are few places in popular cities where we can truly feel the heartbeat of local culture. The marketplace is an exception. Whether you’re chomping on Israeli falafel, Colombian arepas, or Indian dosas, you can be sure to taste a bit of traditional flavor in any kind of street food. The same fast food chains might crop up all over the world, but street vendors are resilient. And, because they often lie at the heart of their communities, they’ll always have a loyal customer base.

Photographers might understand the value of street markets more than anyone. “Every time I visit a new city, small town, or village during my travels, I go to a local market first thing,” Shutterstock contributor Vitalii Karas tells us. “For me, it’s the best way to discover a place or a country from the inside. You can observe how real people live and communicate and learn about what they eat and buy.”

We asked seven outstanding photographers around the world to share the stories behind some of their most dynamic street food pictures. Below, they take us on a journey to India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Georgia, and more, opening our eyes to the gems they’ve encountered on their many travels. While some of these markets are thriving, others have vanished, reminding us of the importance of cherishing them while we still can.

1. “One of my favorite street markets is Pasar Malam Segama in Kota Kinabalu Sabah, Malaysia.”

Lano Lan

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Look for Interesting Angles

Image by Lano Lan. Gear: Sony A6000 camera, 55-210 F4.5 – 6.3 OSS lens. Settings: Focal length 90mm; exposure 1/125 sec; f5.6; ISO 400.

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had photographing street food or a market somewhere in the world.

One of my favorite street markets is Pasar Malam Segama in Kota Kinabalu Sabah, Malaysia. It lies along a stretch of parking lot below a bridge, and the market is open from 5:00-10:00 PM. At this Pasar Malam, or “Night Market” in English, you can find a wide array of traditional Chinese and Malay street food. I arrive as early as 4:00 looking for stalls selling traditional cakes, like the ones you see in this photo, as they are normally both varied and colorful.

There is also a Javanese stall that sells “bakso” and “soto,” which is a noodle soup served with chicken/beef and flavored with many spices. The best part is that all the food here is home-cooked, which makes it more special. There are also many fruit hawkers selling imported and local fruits. This place is popular among locals and tourists alike, which gives me the opportunity to photograph colorful street scenes. Since the market is located under the bridge, I can also get overhead shots of the scene using a telephoto lens.

2. “I’ve seen so many markets all around the world, but the one that I will never forget is definitely Can Cau market in Vietnam.”

Sabino Parente

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Get Excited

Image by Sabino Parente. Gear: Leica M camera, Summicron 35mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/180 sec; f8; ISO 800.

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had photographing street food or a market somewhere in the world.

Street markets are like playgrounds for me. I get excited and completely immersed in the flow of people, the noise, the colors, and the smells. I’ve seen so many markets all around the world, but the one that I will never forget is definitely Can Cau market in Vietnam. It’s a kind of genuine tribe market for the Hmong people, located in the very north (Sapa region), close to the Chinese border.

Surrounded by wonderful nature and rice terraces, this market is quite large. It’s an explosion of colors and smells, both good and bad. Can Cau market is mainly a farmer’s market, and one area is dedicated to animal trades, and you’ll find everything there: chickens, wild pigs, birds, and dogs. But upon walking a bit further, I discovered that there was something going on down in the valley: a scattered crowd and hundreds of buffalos were animating the landscape.

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Have Patience

Image by Sabino Parente. Gear: Leica M camera, Summicron 28mm f2 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/125 sec; f5.6; ISO 800.

Luckily, I was up at the top, and I could have everything in my frame. But I needed two things in order to make the picture more unique: a human being and more visible buffalo. Without them, the whole picture would have looked static and anonymous. I waited a little bit more, and I saw a farmer with a leather hat approaching the edge and sitting down on his knees. Attracted by him, two buffalos started to climb up the mountain—exactly what I was hoping to see. I placed myself right behind the man, lowering my viewpoint and being careful not to scare or disturb him. I shot a few pictures, and I walked away super happy!

3. “I remember all the Asian markets I’ve visited, but the most memorable are from India, where every street is a market.”

Vitalii Karas

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Color and Light

Image by Vitalii Karas. Gear: Nikon d3100 camera, Nikon 35mm f1.8 C lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f3.5; ISO 200.

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had photographing street food or a market somewhere in the world.

In Asian countries, local markets are a very important part of people’s lives. I remember all the Asian markets I’ve visited, but the most memorable are from India, where every street is a market. You can find people pushing carts with vegetables and fruits, men cooking masala chai (tea with spices), and people frying, boiling, and cooking street foods of different colors. It looks so good that you’ll want to eat all of it. And what a smell—I can’t put it into words.

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Follow Your Nose

Image by Vitalii Karas.

Once when I was walking on the street in Udaipur in the morning, I saw this cart with vegetables and fruits. The vendor was preparing everything for a new day at work. Everything on the cart was placed so nicely and in just the right place. The bright, fresh colors and the morning light made it look like he was preparing the cart for photos, so I waited until he was hidden in his storage room and made a few pics.

4. “I remember the market in Batumi (Georgia) for its various colors, the mixture of smells from fresh vegetables, fruits, and fragrant spices…”

Grisha Bruev

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Seek Traditional Foods

Image by Grisha Bruev. Gear: Canon EOS 6D camera, Canon EF 17-40 f/4L USM lens. Settings: Focal length 17mm; exposure 1/50 sec; f5.6; ISO 800.

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had photographing street food or a market somewhere in the world.

In every new country, I try to visit a local market. It is here that you can see a bit of the unique culture of a country, and that’s something that may disappear over time. I remember the market in Batumi (Georgia) for its various colors, the mixture of smells from fresh vegetables, fruits, and fragrant spices, and the friendly vendors inviting you to try their goods, which ranged from cheese and wine to fruits and spices.

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Employ Color

Image by Grisha Bruev.

In this photo, we have a selection of products of different colors and shapes. In the foreground and background, there is a red churchkhela, a traditional Georgian candle-shaped candy. And in the middle ground, we can see multi-colored spices, including yellow turmeric rhizome powder, saffron, ground orange powder, barberry, and ground dried berries. The famous yellowish blend is Khmeli suneli, literally “dried spices,” which is a traditional Georgian spice mix.

5. “I am a professional photographer, and my main goal is to take photos from my travels and especially from local bazaars.”

Curioso

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Enjoy Your Travels

Image by Curioso. Gear: Canon 5d Mark III camera, EF50mm f/1.4 USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/650 sec; f3.5; ISO 160.

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had photographing street food or a market somewhere in the world.

I took this picture during a trip to India. I am a professional photographer, and my main goal is to take photos from my travels and especially from local bazaars. This one in India was particularly interesting because it was surprisingly colorful. The seller said his stall often serves as a backdrop to chefs’ journeys and very often he can see himself on TV.

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Take Chances

Image by Curioso.

In the years following, I’d wanted to come back to this same place, but the bazaar was not there anymore. That’s how it is in India. It’s a surprising and very delicate world that is still in motion, and the situations and places you meet are all unique. Every few years, I return to India in search of such places.

6. “As a photographer, I’m always stimulated by colors, sounds, and aromas.”

Mario Troiani

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Portray the Sights, Smells, and Sounds

Image by Mario Troiani. Gear: Nikon D810 camera, Tamron 24-70 f.2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f6.3; ISO 450.

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had photographing street food or a market somewhere in the world.

As a photographer, I’m always stimulated by colors, sounds, and aromas. One of the markets that has interested me most is the Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv. The most varied types of spices, seeds, and nuts from all parts of the world are sold here. The market is located in the south of the city, surrounded by old houses with small shops full of goods.

Here, the smells of different spices envelop you, and you can taste all kinds of goods before buying them. In the same area, there are also several restaurants that offer the most varied types of Middle Eastern cuisine, so you can stop at one of them after shopping and enjoy a little relaxation and people-watching.

7. “Southeast Asian markets are memorable because of their different tropical fruits and vegetables, all with unusual colors, shapes, and tastes.”

Breslavtsev Oleg

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Let Light Guide You

Image by Breslavtsev Oleg. Gear: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera, EF35mm f/1.4L USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f2,8; ISO 250.

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had photographing street food or a market somewhere in the world.

I can’t pick just one. In every country I’ve been to, I’ve visited local markets. For example, I’ve been to markets in Istanbul, Marrakech, and Jerusalem, and I’ve experienced the aromas of unforgettable and special spices, street foods, coffee, and freshly baked goods. And a lot of bright colors!

Photographers on Delicious Street Food Around the World — Open Your Eyes to Color

Image by Breslavtsev Oleg.

Southeast Asian markets are memorable because of their different tropical fruits and vegetables, all with unusual colors, shapes, and tastes. Plus, everything is usually cheap here, and the people are very kind. In markets throughout Asia, you can try everything that you can imagine: scorpions, larvae, insects, etc. But usually, it’s only entertainment for the tourists, and many Asian people eat very simple food.

As for European street markets, I’d say they are best on holidays. Especially at Christmastime or Halloween, they look like something from a fairytale. The photo I chose, however, is one with a simple story. My wife and I were walking around the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, and I saw the most beautiful rays of light and said, “Oh, we must do some pictures here!”

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