The Role of Imagery 

                                                            on the development of 

                                             Landscape Tourism

    
Quattrocento                                                                                                                                                   by Jorge D. Goldfarb  

Part V:                          The Camera-Tourist

 

 "Neither the camera nor the photographer makes pictures: it is the hybrid of                 the camera- tourist" 
                                                                           Jonas Larsen (2005)                                

    

      With this page we arrive to the end of these series. As said at their onset, we were set to explore the narrative of the peculiar place of landscapes within “popular” culture. We tried to do this through the story of landscape tourism on the hypothesis that nowadays people interact with landscapes mostly while touring the countryside(with the exception of the minor folk-culture of H.Gans). Landscape tourism  is “consumed” by the public because it supposedly generates pleasurable experiences which are different from those typically encountered in everyday life” A part of those experiences is “to gaze upon or view a set of different scenes, of landscapes or townscapes which are out of the ordinary.”  Urry, [1] 

    

       We have explored in these series the imagery to which the public was exposed and the ways it may have acted as an inducement to actually travel to the destinations depicted in it. This was imagery manufactured and presented by others to the potential customer but, with the advent of the ubiquitous camera, the public began actively making imagery for and by themselves(see Part IV). In the end “taking snapshots of landscapes” has become so inextricably associated with “visiting” those landscapes, that some have been led  to assume the existence of a novel entity, a hybrid: the camera-tourist, as in Larsen’s quote above. In this, Part V, we comment on this peculiar association of  tourist and cameras and the way it affects and effects landscape perception.



 A Prosthetic Culture 

 

    Urry [1] writes that  the tourist gaze "is “directed towards features of landscape and townscape which separate them off from everyday experience"” and that "“people linger about such a gaze which is then normally visually objectified or captured through photographs, postcards, films, models and so on. These enable the gaze to be endlessly reproduced and recaptured”."  I’ would venture to say that it has become more than that; the tourist gaze has become so intertwined with the camera that a particular and novel way of apprehending landscapes has emerged: seeing landscape photographically.

 

     The notion of 'seeing photographically' has been discussed by Celia Lury [2]. Her assumption is that the photography, more than merely representing,  has taught us a way of seeing and that this way of seeing has  transformed contemporary self-understandings

(of which the self –understanding of landscapes may be an instance).

    

    Through photography we can frame, freeze and fix whatever scene becomes the focus of our transient interest. True we still have our eyes and our memory but, while our focused attention can frame and freeze for a passing moment, our visual memory cannot fix, cannot preserve the scene so that it could be later recalled at will ‘as it was’. The photographic image can do just that effortlessly and efficiently. Digital technology has insured that there i’s a minimal handling, no more camera loading, focus and exposure settings; cameras can be held in the palm of your hands effortlessly and hence continuously, as a friendly appendix. Scenes are considered in terms of how they would look when framed, frozen and fixed.. Seeing photographically entails looking at something not just through the mind’s eyes but through an auxiliary organ, that is a prosthesis.

 

     The general idea in Lury’'s approach is that “a prosthetic culture is beginning to emerge in Euro-American societies; in this culture the subject as an individual passes beyond the mirror stage of self-knowledge, of reflection of self, into that of self extension”. “The prosthesis- and it may be perceptual or mechanical - – is what makes this extension possible” Hence the role of the photographic camera as an extension organ that seems to do certain things better than the individual mind’s eyes. (Footnote 1)

      

    Lury argues that insofar as "vision and self-knowledge have become inextricably and productively intertwined in modern Euro-American societies"; self-identity must now be seen as obtained in relation to a widening range of visualization techniques, based in or derived from seeing photographically . This seeing photographically implies the idea that contemporary subjectivity is constituted “as the subject effect of the counter memory of the photograph”. "In adopting and adapting a prosthesis (like the camera) the person creates a self-identity that is no longer defined by “I think, therefore I am” but rather “I can, therefore I am”." [2] 


         

         What may be particularly relevant to the question of photography in relation to landscape perception and appreciation is that, according to Lury, the prosthetic culture may be contrasted against an aesthetic culture. In the latter, cultural inventions are usually understood as a supplement to natural human ability; in the former cultural and natural attributes are thought of as interchangeable and, as such, all but indistinguishable. When attributes become indistinguishable a new whole emerges, the hybrid to be discussed below.



The Camera-Tourist 


      Jonas Larsen [3] argues that the limit, symmetry, proportion, etc, or in short what we consider attributes of beauty in natural scenes are not a property of mere vision. “It is creative and imaginative visuality that people have learned to practice through being readers of numerous landscapes images, materialized in paintings, photographs, on film and TV. Without such representations the beautiful order we find in nature, and which is only an effect of images, would at once vanish.”  

 

     " Within this view our apprehension of nature is not the result of a one-to-one relation between humans and the environment but it is mediated through various technologies. Artifacts, like the camera, can sensuously extend human capabilities for better or worse. Quoting Larsen again: “I suggest that we can speak of tourism photography through the hybrid of the camera-tourist, thereby transcending either/or discussion about whether it is the camera or the photographer that shoots: it is the camera-tourist. It is thus the intimate relation between tourists and cameras  that we must study, the combination, the hybrid… ‘To be at tourist is to be a hybridized camera-tourist”".


       These ideas are further developed by Haldrup and Larsen in Material Cultures of Tourism: “ "Tourist photography is part of the ‘theatre” that enables modern people to enact and produce their desired togetherness, wholeness and intimacy. When cameras appear, activities are put on hold, and in posing people present themselves as a desired future memory; they assume tender postures: holding hands, hugging, embracing and so on.” … “The flux and flow of  tourist experiences are '(re)solidified', ripped out of time; the 'camera-tourist' captures those moments that would otherwise soon wash away, like a sandcastle."

”

           Thus we re-encounter “landscape as a stage”, admittedly a far cry from the Brueghel pictorial representation we discussed in Landscape as Theatre, but nonetheless a background on whose surface human events unfold. To many of us this “minimalist role” of landscapes may appear somewhat derogatory but let us not forget that we are merely exploring possible roles of landscapes within the context of “popular landscape tourism”.


References: 


 

 [1] Urry, John : The Tourist Gaze, Sage Publications, 2002

 [2] Lury, Celia: Prosthetic Culture, Photography, Memory and Identity, Routledge, 1998

 [3] Larsen, Jonas: in Social Constructionism and Representation(pdf)





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