A few days ago, I came back from a holiday and it’s made me think about the culture of tourist photography, which has grown even more since the rise of smartphones and increase in amateur photography, often linked to social media sites like Instagram.
I like taking photos on holiday with my phone (and hopefully with a camera in the future!) and occasionally post my favourites to my social media accounts. I view it as a form of art, and enjoy trying to frame interesting and creative shots, sometimes with unexpected subjects, or from an interesting angle.
What I’m getting at is that when I’m on holiday, I try not to just indiscriminately take photos of everything I see, as I know that once I get home I will in all probability never look at those photos again. I would rather have one shot that I’m proud of than ten slightly blurry or badly framed photographs, even if I don’t get a photo of every single attraction or significant building in the place that I’m visiting.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with people who do take photos of everything, as I understand that others may not have the same interest in photography as I do and just want to keep some memories from their holiday.
However, I can’t help but think that in some cases, people get so distracted by taking a photo of the thing that they don’t always take as much time to look at it, or find out more about it, or even think about it outside of being something to be ticked off the list.
I won’t turn this into an argument about evil technology making people narcissistic and shallow and only caring about their online profile while forgetting to live in the real world, because I don’t believe that is always the case, and I hate when people blame technology and criticise young people in particular for ‘always being on their phones’. My phone with its camera has helped me express myself creatively, and more people than ever can get into photography and other creative things through their phones and technology in general, as well as take photos to remember their holidays and families and friends.
The influence technology has had on our lives isn’t entirely positive, but nor is it entirely negative, and it seems that people always want to restrict it to one of these two.
Returning to tourist photography, I can’t help but think of that stereotype of the group of tourists with their cameras, arriving at a site, taking their photos and then leaving just as quickly. It’s in every cartoon, television show, and any other form of media you can think of.
I just find it a bit sad that this is our overriding impression of tourists, reflected by popular culture, as people who don’t care about the places they are visiting, which may be true in some cases but clearly isn’t always the case. People have different degrees of interest about different things, some may be interested in the history of a place, others in the customs and some might just not be interested in any of it.
I don’t have a big point to make in all of this rambling, but just wanted to share some of my thoughts about tourism and photography, and I guess the wider influence of technology on society, as I think they’re really interesting to think about and discuss.
Hopefully it’ll prompt some interesting thoughts from you as well.