Thoughtfactory: large format

a minor blog about the trials, tribulations and explorations of large format, analogue photography in Australia

trying to avoid tourist photography

I find it difficult to make  colour photos of the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula that avoid the all pervasive tourist style of imagery. 

The power of the visual image has long been employed to great effect by the advertising industry to sell product.  The tourism industry is no exception. It sells leisure, fun  and the holiday experience in extra-ordinary  locations away from the world of work. Hence the idea of the tourist gaze and the pictures of  landmarks, waterfalls, animals, and empty beaches The relationship between commercial photography and tourism is extremely close, if not  fundamentally integrated. 

How is it possible to make an effective photographic project around climate change and the environment in the era of the Anthropocene is a question I keep stumbling over.  It is a question that  I have yet to find an answer to. 

One option is to photograph in  black and white. Another  option is explore is to experiment.  One possibility here is to harm  or damage the image  in some way-- eg., in the form of multiple exposure. My double exposure didn't really work.   My  second  experiment  was to  move the camera slightly during the exposure  of this photo of the coastline to Kings Head and Beach in Waitpinga:

 Another possibility in harm  intervention is  mark making  in the form of scratching and wounding the surface of the images to speak to the negative impact that climate change is having on nature --- forests, coastlines, wetlands, rivers etc  Multiple exposure and camera shift enable me to step outside the tourist style. 

 Sarah Hood Salmon's  series entitled Scratched  is an example of using  sandpaper and mat knives to create a mirrored destruction of her photographs to the landscapes that will soon cease to exist. Her earlier Shorelines  series explores the possibilities of the look of  an  out-of-focus photography through multiple exposures.

John Urry's idea of the tourist gaze is that it is bound up with a certain kind of perception, one that is focused on looking at objects in a specific way --the construction of objects to gaze at – a search for the photogenic.  So negating the tourist photography basically means undermining/disturbing  the photogenic. 

The next step is  how  to make an effective photographic project around climate change and the subsequent impact on the  environment, people, places, and wildlife  in the era of the Anthropocene. It is not easy as environmental issues are often complex and unfold over extended periods through  gradual and unseen changes. Climate change is a remote issue and unlikely to have personal implications.  The standard approach is to photograph melting glaciers or stranded polar bears. 

One possible  way is to avoid both “the whole picture” of the climate crisis and the gloom-and-doom that dominates both traditional and social media  and  to concentrate on  the seemingly insignificant in an attempt to make the climate crisis unnervingly intimate.