16 Portraits of People in Sri Lanka

By Mark Wiens 50 Comments
Market Vendor in Kandy
Market Vendor in Kandy

Sri Lankans love to get their photo taken, possibly more than any other country that I’ve ever visited.

Unlike many other countries, Sri Lankans will even ask you to take their photo – without ever thinking about a monetary tip.

All the photos below were taken around the island of Sri Lanka of people that asked me to take their photo

1. Market Vendor in Kandy, Sri Lanka (above)

Though this guy’s solemn look appeared serious, in reality he was an excited yet expressionless market vendor holding an umbrella. As I passed he called me out and gestured that he wanted his photo taken!

I took his photo as he sat on the side of the road, keeping the same exact position and barely even moving his face.

Fish Market Vendor in Kandy
Fish Market Vendor in Kandy

2. Fish Market Vendor in Kandy, Sri Lanka

When this guy saw my camera, he was eager to spread the wings of this fish and get his portrait taken.

The market in Kandy was not quite as chaotic as the Dar Es Salaam fish market, but all the salesmen were friendly and happy to see foreigners.

Fruit Man in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Fruit Man in Kandy, Sri Lanka

3. Fruit Man in Kandy, Sri Lanka

I was just walking around Kandy Central Market when this guy invited me into his fruit stall and started giving me samples of his glorious ripe selection of fruit. It’s not the first time I’ve been lured into a taste testing frenzy.

Kids Playing at Negombo Beach, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Kids Playing at Negombo Beach, Negombo, Sri Lanka

4. Kids Playing at Negombo Beach, Negombo, Sri Lanka

While moseying around Negombo Beach one day, this group of youth started smiling in my direction. After exchanging a few “hallos,” they expressed their interest in having me take their photo – as they giggled away.

Coconut Vendor, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Coconut Vendor, Kandy, Sri Lanka

5. Coconut Vendor, Kandy, Sri Lanka

I drank a King Coconut from this guy and he was obliged to have me take his portrait along with a coconut.

Baby on the Bus, Pusselawa, Sri Lanka
Baby on the Bus, Pusselawa, Sri Lanka

6. Baby on the Bus, Pusselawa, Sri Lanka

It was her grandmother that asked me to take her photo (or is it a boy…I’m still not fully sure? Any guesses? Leave a comment).

Catholic Shrine, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Catholic Shrine, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

7. Catholic Shrine, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

While aimlessly walking around Jaffna near the beach, this lady called me out from the street and hollered for me to take her photo. She was in the midst of putting together a shrine that included a cross and a number of statues.

Fish Market, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Fish Market, Kandy, Sri Lanka

8. Fish Market, Kandy, Sri Lanka

While browsing the market, this man invited me over for a quick cup of ginger tea and then wanted a photo of his catch. This guy really reminded me of that guy in Cairo that stuck a cigarette in a lamb’s mouth.

Bus Ride in Pusselawa, Sri Lanka
Bus Ride in Pusselawa, Sri Lanka

9. Bus Ride in Pusselawa, Sri Lanka

This boy on a bus ride in Pusselawa was an observer. He sat quietly just staring at us, studying our moves, but too nervous to open his mouth.

Kids in Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Kids in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

10. Kids in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

On Beach Road in Jaffna, these kids stopped in their tracks to see 2 white guys. When they saw my camera they immediately wanted to pose for a shot.

Tea Man, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Tea Man, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

11. Tea Man, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

At first I though this guy was a pirate.

He was a little bit of a crazy guy, but as he made his special ginger tea, he asked that I take a shot of him. When he saw the picture on the screen, he lit up with excitement and started beaming with joy.

Hole in the Wall Tea Stall, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Hole in the Wall Tea Stall, Colombo, Sri Lanka

12. Hole in the Wall Tea Stall, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Escaping a rain downpour, we stepped into a tiny little tea stall adjacent to Pettah Market in downtown Colombo. These guys asked me to take their photo.

On the wall poster behind them is one of the most famous cricket players in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Snake Charmer, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan Snake Charmer, Colombo, Sri Lanka

13. Sri Lankan Snake Charmer, Colombo, Sri Lanka

While cruising around Colombo one day, a number of Sri Lankan snake charmers appeared out of nowhere. After taming the snake with his fist and flute, I got a shot of his face.

Young Football Players, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Young Football Players, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

14. Young Football Players, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

These kids couldn’t have been happier.

It was only 6 am in Jaffna, but they were all out on the field running around and kicking the ball around. As I walked past, their attention was distracted from the game and they all came running over to see 2 random (out of place) foreigners in Jaffna.

We juggled the ball for a few minutes, but the kids were much more interested in posing for photos.

Elderly Woman on a Bus, Pusselawa, Sri Lanka
Elderly Woman on a Bus, Pusselawa, Sri Lanka

15. Elderly Woman on a Bus, Pusselawa, Sri Lanka

This Sri Lankan Tamil woman was wordless, but wanted me to take a photo of herself and her family while waiting for the bus to depart.

Her facial structure, the deep ingrained lines, and her kind expression reminded me of the woman in the ancient Chinese village.

Girl Munching on a Mango, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Girl Munching on a Mango, Colombo, Sri Lanka

16. Girl Munching on a Mango, Colombo, Sri Lanka

This is one of my favorite photos from Sri Lanka.

It was actually her father that instructed me to take a photo of his daughter. She on the other hand was nervous in front of the lens and didn’t quite know how to act.

Her thick ebony-black hair and her wide gleaming eyes are what made this girl so cool looking!

While it’s hard to take pictures of people in many countries, Sri Lanka is an extremely photogenic country where people love to have their photo taken!



50 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Lurker

    2 years ago

    Hi Mark. I enjoyed your photos. Do you have a Flickr account? I want to see more images. Thanks.

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hi Lurker, thank you. At the moment, I don’t have any gallery setup, but will keep that in mind. Thanks!

  • Angelique

    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing all this. Going to Sri Lanka next week, I particularly enjoyed all your posts about the country, and will keep your blog in my favorites 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey Angelique, enjoy your time in Sri Lanka and enjoy the food!

  • Karu

    2 years ago

    I’m from Sri Lanka and found this post is incomplete, good work though 🙂

  • Deborah

    5 years ago

    Oh, and did I mention the tuk-tuk driver in Dambulla (Sri Lanka) who had Bob Marley blaring from his vehicle with pictures of Bob and everything painted in red, gold and green. Bob’s message is clearly a universal one!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Haha, that is great! Sounds like an exact scenario from Ethiopia!

  • Deborah

    5 years ago

    Hi: We just got back from Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Am originally from Cape Town so for me it was a great experience learning more about the history of the people I grew up with. Really civil society, nice place, clean, friendly people and the food … exquisite.

    Sri Lanka was wonderful. The food so-so (they make a mean kingfish curry), however for me the highlights were the safaris, the jungle, the ruins (VERY well preserved) and the sheer natural beauty of the place.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing Deborah! Malaysia and Sri Lanka are both some of the most memorable countries I’ve visited. You’re right about Sri Lanka, just sheer natural beauty!

  • Ranajit Tendolkar

    5 years ago

    Thanks Mike….this was wonderful.

    Am still wondering why I didn’t write to you three weeks ago for tips, when I discovered this blog.

    Any, which ways…thanks a ton. Loved your images of the local populace.

    Ranajit

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Thank you so much Ranajit, glad you enjoyed this post and hope you have a wonderful time visiting Sri Lanka!

  • Neil

    6 years ago

    Hi Mike,

    You have that great skill of presenting even the mundane as beautiful. What a wonderful skill and you have so much enthusiasm to be one with the people where others would fear to tread. Well done. And thanks for making SriLanka more beautiful than it really is. You are an artist who really makes some true masterpieces, not only in your presentation but the photos and words. Well done and keep up the good work. May fortune always favor the adventurous traveler. God bless you and grant many more safe and enjoyable journeys around the globe.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      I appreciate your comment Neil – thank you very much! I really enjoy traveling, taking photos, meeting people and most importantly learning from cultures around the world. I had a great time in Sri Lanka and was really well accepted. Thanks again and God bless you!

  • Menushka

    6 years ago

    SUPERB STUFF MARK…what is the camera and the lenses you use?? just curious.. 😀

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Menushka! I used a Canon 550D with an 18-135 mm Canon lens.

  • Gihan

    6 years ago

    Hey mark i like every posts in this blog about Srilanka…I’m also srilankan. Hope you visit it again and fell the beauty of my country…Don’t forget to break down your time for a real travel in Srilanka…If you like i can help you to create a travel plan….don’t be afraid …it doesn’t cost anything ok….i ll do it as a friend….

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Awesome to hear this Gihan, thanks so much! Thanks also for taking a look at my articles – I’ll let you know if I make it back to Sri Lanka! Hope you are doing well and had a great Christmas!

  • Spencer

    6 years ago

    Great photos! I love Sri Lanka. Beautiful place, beautiful people. Great food as well!

  • Prasad

    6 years ago

    Hey Mark. I just came to your blog through one of your videos ‘Things To Do in Colombo City’, which was posted on Facebook by ‘Sri Lanka Tourism’ page.

    I’m also from Sri Lanka and I am really happy to see you enjoy our country and our people and cultures. I’d like to invite you to visit ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ again, really soon… 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks a lot Prasad! I’m excited to hear that you found me through the tourism page. I had an incredible time traveling through Sri Lanka, you have a really beautiful country. Thanks a lot for the invitation to come back too – I’d love to return again sometime soon! Thanks and hope you are having a great day! – Mark

  • Madhawa

    6 years ago

    Hi, I’m from Sri Lanka and after reading your blogs about my country I really wanted to say “thank you”. You’ve done a great job by discovering this country. I hope you’d come back again. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks for your kind comment Madhawa – I really appreciate it! I truly had a remarkable time visiting Sri Lanka and I’d love to return again sometime and visit again! Take care!

  • Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    6 years ago

    You just made my day. We are headed to Sri Lanka next year and I’m stoked to hear of another place where people love to get their photos taken. Great photos, Mark!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Christy! That’s great to hear that you are heading to Sri Lanka – it’s a great country to visit. Can’t wait to see your photos too!

  • Amanda

    6 years ago

    Great shots! I especially love the one of the baby, and the one of the old woman on the bus.

  • Erin

    6 years ago

    Wonderful portraits! The smiles of Sri Lankan people are one of the things that really struck me about the country when we travelled there. I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your time in Sri Lanka, especially in Jaffna and the north, as it wasn’t possible to travel there when we were there. I really want to go back and explore those areas now they are more open.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Erin! Glad to hear that the smiles and the people really stood out to you as well – Sri Lankan people are some of friendliest I’ve encountered throughout my travels. Yes, I’ll definitely get some information out there about Jaffna – it was a beautiful place but still lots of evidence of the war.

  • Zablon Mukuba

    6 years ago

    Great pictures, the people are a big part of any culture we visit

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      I agree Zablon, the people and their culture is what really makes a country special. Thanks for taking a look!

  • adventureswithben

    6 years ago

    I love how they just hold up the fish!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Yup, actually lots of guys held up a fish and asked for me to take their photo!

  • jenjenk

    6 years ago

    i love how you captured the essence of the people!! so beautiful!!!!

  • John in France

    6 years ago

    I thought food photos were your specialty, but these are just wonderful, and made me smile too!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks a lot John! Normally I don’t take too many photos of anything other than food, but in Sri Lanka it was amazing – everyone in this article “asked” me to take their photo! I’m normally not too brave when it comes to asking people to take their photo – but Sri Lanka was the other way around!

  • Aariah

    6 years ago

    Beautiful pics and sights!

  • Turtle

    6 years ago

    Great photos! And it’s nice to hear that everyone is so happy for you to take shots of them. Makes a nice change from some places.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Yes, many Sri Lankans are so happy to have their photo taken which is great. Thanks for taking a look!

  • Michael Figueiredo

    6 years ago

    Beautiful portraits, Mark! I love all of the colors.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thanks Michael – the bright colors are one of the things I really loved about Sri Lanka as well!

  • 50+ and on the Run

    6 years ago

    Wow! These portraits are wonderful–really evocative of each person’s spirit. Some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Thank you for sharing!
    Nancy