As many of us head off for summer research, or for a well-deserved summer vacation, our cameras are never far from reach. We snap pictures of our food, our friends, people we meet, and interesting places we go. Some of us strive to navigate away from these usual subjects in hopes that we capture something a little more interesting, or a little more thoughtful than the norm. However, I find that while travelling, I am forced to take that picture. You know, THAT one.
And that one.
And of course, that one.
I could try to be a little different, a little creative, a little more thoughtful. But somehow the iconic version of these images is the one I must have. I actively try to convince myself to not take that picture, but then, the anxiety takes over. I might regret it later. I won’t have proof that I went there. We desire evidence that we were witness to a particular place – or rather a particular idea of a place. Travel ideals are created and consumed through these photos, these iconic images of grand human achievement or splendor. The narrow definition of travel through photographs is the central theme of Corinne Vionnet’s “Photo Opportunities» which you can access here and here.
Focusing on the “tourist gaze,” Vionnet chooses 18 of the most iconic landmarks on Earth and overlays hundreds of images to create one master image. The result is what looks like a blurry version of one of the tourist photograph, or perhaps a long exposure photograph taken during an earthquake. It isn’t spectacular, and it isn’t supposed to be.
However, Vionnet challenges her audience to question why we are taking that photo, when every single one other person at Chichen Itza is taking the same one. You could just ask them for a copy. Ironically, it would seem somehow inauthentic to take someone else’s image. We attempt to capture a copy of the icon to consume it for ourselves. These tourist photos aren’t meant to be art – they are fetishized as commodities for consumption. Vionnet’s reproduction of them questions why, when travelling is to see something new, we end up seeing the same things in the same way.
This is not to say, as you head out to whatever summer destination you may have, that you shouldn’t snap a shot of Christo Redentor or the Giralda. I will most likely give in to my tourist anxiety and take these pictures too. However, if you manage to do something a little more creative, a little more thoughtful, send them to our blog (Megan [dot] coxe [at] gmail [dot] com).
And if you don’t end up taking any pictures – don’t worry. They are all on the internet.