Stephen Bull in his book Photography (2010) Abingdon: Routledge.
Bull discusses how in the 18th and 19th century anthropology linked to colonialism recorded and catalogued native people around the world allowing comparison across races and with the intention of comparing who and what they considered superior and who and what was in their opinion inferior. In the 19th century native people were photographed against plain backgrounds often naked and including in the image a grid or a rod for measurement. Elizabeth Edwards a writer at the forefront of studies on photography and anthropology applies the idea of the exotic Other to these pictures. The Other …where what was is different (or Other) is an object of both anxiety and desire, used to justify the ‘normality’ of what is not the Other. (1)
Susan Sontag in her book On photography (1977) London: Penguin.
Sontag discusses how photography has been used in tourism as a tool. ….to take possession of space which they feel insecure. How in a consumer society: Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had…The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuage general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated to travel. Most tourists feel compelled to put between whatever is remarkable that they encounter. Sontag theorises that: Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.
I would mostly agree with Sontag, except for perhaps the experienced, well-travelled, traveller of whom, may not suffer feeling of insecurity. However, as her statements regarding the typical general tourist I would agree. Many modern tourists travel on the premise of experiencing the life and culture of their destination of being (for a very short time) a part of their world; but this is an illusion and the camera far from bringing that world closer only pushes it further away. By nature the camera is always the outsider, always the voyeur, always the witness, therefore so must the photographer. The tourist in the Souks is the outsider, in a place full of insiders the tourist may feel isolated, the foreigner, vulnerable. His use of the camera may draw unwanted attention upon him. Modern mobile phones which now include a camera has made photography for the tourist much easier and less conspicuous in their use. Flickr a website created in the wake of the explosion of camera phones and the resulting photography stands as testament to this new reality. Today’s tourist has a camera on a mobile phone that acts not only to record the unusual sights before them; but also it helps the tourist keep a distance from their world to the one they are visiting.
Photography has been linked to tourism has from the 19th century with photographs taken of places that laid beyond the limits of most people’s ability to go and see for themselves. Exotic or sublime views from such places were photographed then sold to an eager public to travel in their imaginations from the comfort of their chair in the parlours and living rooms (the armchair tourism). (3) Modern travel photography continues to meet a consumers need in the way of travel brochures, magazines, coffee table books, internet websites, etc.
- Bull (2010) pages 105 – 106.
- Sontag (1977) pages 9 -10.
- Taylor (1994) page 4.