I love walking around and discovering a new place. Being camera-happy, I like taking endless pictures of street life and each city has its own allure of life in the streets; of life of the common people. Thus it is no wonder that I did exactly that in Tunis as well; capturing my perceptions of this delightful North African city. My Tunis street photography shots have been taken at random. These shots show the aspects of Tunis that captured my attention. For example, I loved the blue, white, orange, and turquoise colours that dominate Tunis’s cityscape. I also liked looking at the old houses in the Medina, admiring their bright blue wooden latticed windows, the yellow and blue doors, and the covered souks.

Tunis street photography colours

Capturing the local life with Tunis street photography

People, in my eyes, are the same everywhere. We all are struggling to live, to exist a bit better than yesterday, trying to find joy in small things, being vulnerable and human, and at the same time, being tricky, sly, and sometimes, not so nice. I saw the faces of the local people in Tunisia and captured them in my Tunis street photography sessions. The lined faces spoke of familiar struggles and the wrinkled eyes expressed known emotions. I have seen these signs before in different places around the world; in Cairo, in Calcutta, in Phnom Penh, in Havana, in Sanaa…These are telltale signs of the life of the common people and all over the world, it’s the same. That is why, I often question myself, what really sets us apart when in the end, we all face the same struggles, have the same desires, and flaws.

This is a ‘point and shoot at every step’ city

But, I am moving away from my topic and that is the beauty of Tunis street photography. The capital city of Tunisia, just like other North African cities, comes complete with the enigmatic allure of street photography. If documenting everyday life and society on the streets is the essence of street photography, then Tunis has photogenic moments are scattered at every step. Often termed as candid photography, street photography is not set up, and the pulse of Tunis makes it easy to capture an image on the go.

Tunis street photography moment

Tunis street photography is grungy and exotic

Perhaps, that’s what makes Tunis street photography so alluring. It is not the cleanest, quietest city, and one may face some hassles there. However, Tunis has a timeless feel to it and it is extremely photogenic while being gigantic and clumsy at the same time. There is a colourful charm in its chaos and the city has a dominant blue and white colour palate. The history, the crumbling character, the chaos, the diverse neighbourhoods, and the signature blue and white colours work together to make Tunis street photography very enjoyable.

Its a ‘point and shoot at every step’ city

The driving force behind street photography is intense visualization and spotting a gorgeous image when you see one. Being brought up in the teeming urban sprawl of Calcutta, I have seen arresting human faces, dilapidation, squalor, glory, and interesting cityscape all my life. Thus, it is no wonder that street photography draws me and I love to play with the extremes of the places during my travels. I love their business, the emptiness, changing of light and shadow, and the human tapestry which weaves together all these factors closely. My move to Egypt has enhanced this passion and Tunis street photography provided a whole new exciting world to discover.

Tunis is a blend of primal colours

To a street photographer, Tunis is a kind of ‘has it all’ city. An ancient city turned into a gigantic metropolis, Tunis is one of the main important hubs of North Africa. This city never fails to transfix me with its beauty and I am in love with its colour palate: blue, white, and marigold yellow. I am amazed by the blueness of its skies, its sea, and the dazzle of the white buildings of the city. These eye-popping colours are further enhanced with generous doses of marigold yellow and blending them all in is a lovely shade of turquoise.

Tunis is a beautiful North African city

Snippets from my Tunis street photography memories

Imagine a man riding on the engine of a dusty moving tramcar while all around him nonchalant people shop for orange trees, harissa peppers, and pickled olives. Sunlight filters through the high vaults in the Medina and the covered souks are hazy with sheesha smoke. Photogenic covered markets display a cornucopia of exotic products: carpets, sheesha pipes, traditional tea sets, carpets, tasselled chechia hats, and handmade signs. Medieval cobbled streets are decorated here and there with fantastic tiles and minarets of the mosques punctuate through the skies. Evenings see street food shops doling out endless briks and jasmine bushes bursting out in fragrant creamy-white flowers. The tired Tunisians, after a long, hot day’s work, throng to local sheesha shops for their daily dose of mint tea. A peaceful complicit silence exists there as water pipes gurgle merrily and reticent men watch soccer on TV or play backgammon in silent determination.

Harissa peppers for sale in a Tunis local market

Street Photography Tips

  1. Get the correct tools – An appropriate lens is one of the biggest secrets behind outstanding street photography. A wide-angle lens is the universal choice of street photographers. The upcoming ones prefer a compact lightweight camera for taking photos on the go.
  2. Make sure you opt for the sight settings – Switch your camera to AV (aperture-priority mode), select your aperture and ISO manually and let the camera decide the shutter speed (exposure). On a bright sunny day, the aperture can be around16 with an ISO between 200-400. If your camera shows a shutter speed higher than 1/200th a second you are street photography ready.  If you’re new to photography then start by setting your camera to auto mode and letting the camera select the correct settings. P.
  3. Always carry your camera – This is the golden rule of street photography. Since street photography is a spontaneous art, it is the practice that makes you perfect. Consider your camera as an extension of yourself and you don’t want to miss amazing photo opportunities by not having your camera on you. In street photography, you have only a split second to capture your subject before it’s gone forever and there is rarely a second chance. So be prepared.
  4. Clear your head blocks and inhibitions – Street photography needs you to be street smart and savvy. Many people struggle with this concept since you are shooting live subjects at candid moments. The fear about your subjects getting angry because you took their picture, threatening you with physical violence, or hassle for money, is a very common one in street photography. The best way to overcome it is to go out more with your camera and shoot.
  5. Try shooting from the hip – Being a petite person who easily gets lost among the crowd, shooting from the hip has never been a hit with me. My husband, Tarek, however, loves to practise this method and some of his shoots from the hip pictures are unbelievably outstanding. This method works best when it’s not possible to raise the camera to your eye, and shooting from the hip may help you capture a decisive moment.
  6. Night photography in the city creates unique images – Though not as easy as shooting during the day, night photography in the city creates some unforgettable images. I find it to have more space for experimenting with low shutter speed to create blur etc, and it is the best time to home your manual shooting skills. Take a tripod if long-exposure shots are on your mind. When shooting at night try finding interesting lines, shadows, silhouetted subjects, and compositions to give the image a bold visual statement.
  7. Street photography is very diverse and fluid – Most people associate street photography with people or candid portraits. The reality is that it is a vast open mode, and you don’t have to capture people in a frame. There are infinite opportunities for all kinds of images with or without people. My tip is to play with textures and the effect of changing light on them.
  8. Finally, enjoy what you do – Creativity flows where the passion lives, so do what makes you happy. I love shooting streets because I love getting lost in the secrets of the city.  So next time, you are visiting a new place or neighbourhood, take some time to wander, observe, feel the pulse, and capture what strikes you. Don’t wait for the second chance, because in street photography, that rarely comes.
  9. Be aware of your surroundings – Street photography involves wandering into different places. Here are a few safety tips that I follow even on a street photographing spree. I research beforehand into what neighbourhoods are truly unsafe and that I stay within the limits of the safe environment. Often I hire a local guide the hotel concierge from the tourist office.

    A woman shopping at a Tunis local market

    A local tea shop

    A fez shop in the Tunis Medina

Follow the rest of the Tunisia series