Friday, July 10, 2015

Banal tourist photos

There's a reason many tourist photos come out so identically: there is simply one point from which the view is spectacular, serene, well-framed, with interesting visual aspects and a clear focus.

This is that view at the parks in front of the imperial palace. There's a cute little decorative pond with a tiny house (shrine? temple? landscapers' hut?) on an island in the center.

Then there's the Wes Anderson version: centered, dramatic, low on emotion but high on organizational satisfaction. Just some temple grounds I wandered through.

And of course the dramatic-sunlit corner of a roof.

Then the photos which look utterly unremarkable, but are quite memorable for the context and the memory that accompanies. Of course these are only interesting for the photographer. Thus, in the center of the city, when I turned and saw a single view with trees lushly carpeting the hill in the distance, I took a photo: because just outside the frame, there was a bustling cityscape. But this one view stood out as exceptional.

Of course this exceptional contrast is not evident in the picture, which only shows a boring roof and some trees.

This is the essence of tourist photography: interesting for the rememberer, and extremely mundane and poorly-executed scrolling for everyone else. Feel free to click over to that other tab that's making noise, now, I won't be offended.

Here's another roof, silhouetted against the sky.

Here are some prayer lanterns, next to a bamboo with wishes tied to its branches. This is what happens when I try to frame the photo to have a lot of interesting visual detail, without wasting space on the framing details.

This is The Photo. I'm standing in a place where thousands of people stand every year to take this exact photo. The photo looks calm, but only because the funnels for tourists corral them outside the frame of this exact viewpoint. The reflection is nice, too.
What this photo doesn't show is that it was in the high 90s F, with something like 90% humidity, and thus punishingly unpleasant weather. Serenity and peaceful contemplation were much further from my thoughts than shade and maybe icy beverages.

But it's a tourist photo, so you can't see that! It just looks peaceful. Look, how peaceful.

This post's theme word is animadversion, "the act of criticizing," or "an unfavorable comment." Widespread animadversion for vacation photo slideshows somehow does not stop their continued production.

1 comment:

masha51 said...

I have emailed you another traveler's photo of the same scene, from April 2014.