The Role of Imagery

                                            on the development of 

                          Popular Landscape Tourism
                                                                                        by Jorge D. Goldfarb 

 Part I:       The Early Landscape Posters

Part II:       The Photochrome.

Part III:      The Postcard

Part IV :     The Photo 

Part V :      The Camera-Tourist 

                                                                           click on a title for Go To 

                                  Note: this page is a draft currently being re-edited  




I think of interest,  within the context of landscape appreciation, to explore the roots of popular landscape tourism. It is somewhat ironic that the attraction that landscapes exerts nowadays on the public at large, puts such a pressure on contemporary landscapes that it has come to constitute the main threat to their preservation.

The story of landscape tourism, that is, traveling for the main purpose of looking at landscapes, appears to be made up of two quite different narratives. One pertaining to the so-called intellectual elites and the other to the public at large, sometimes referred to as “the masses”. These two different narratives stem from the circumstance that the way we relate to landscapes is part of our culture and that “western culture” (for lack of a better mane) may be subdivided into a High or “elitist” culture and a Low or “popular” one. (footnote #1).

Whereas the historical narrative of the attitudes of the intellectual elites towards landscape tourism is amply documented, in the case of the narrative of the popular one we have little to go by. This is understandable since, for the first narrative, there was a profusion of Travel Diaries, a whole literature of prose and poetry devoted to landscapes and, of course, paintings and drawings. The artistic expressions connecting with landscapes were produced for and consumed by those intellectual elites.

It seems to be widely accepted that mass tourism started in Europe (footnote#2) when railroad travel became within reach of the middle class and even of the factory workers. However, except for places easily reached by “day trips”, it became an annual feature in daily life only with the advent of paid holidays or “vacations”. Nowadays an accepted practice, paid annual holidays became a workers right for clerks and factory workers in Europe less than a hundred years ago (see footnote #3) . Some of this tourism was aimed for the sights of other towns, for entertainment or to obtain the “beneficial effects” of the countryside or the seaside. In the case of France, 

the motivations for traveling to the countryside in early 19th century have been aptly examined by Nicholas Green ( footnote # 4) and in the case of mountain landscapes of Catalonia by Francesc Roma.( Link ).


One of the pertinent questions is what made some people to prefer as their destination places of “outstanding natural beauty” instead of visiting other towns or simply resting locations? In modern terms, quoting R.W. Hepburn (footnote#5) what is the appeal of “ a fleeting and distanced impression of countryside through a touring-coach window or obligatory visits to standard vantage points. (add definition incl. vantage point) 

Landscape Imagery  One of the factors that appears to have played an important role throughout regarding the above mentioned preferences may well have been the widespread distribution of imagery( to use N. Green’s term). (add cf)





:- A vast literature of sociological (and pseudo-soc) studies has been published in the later decades on the comparison of “elitist(High) culture” and “mass, popular or low culture” . I’'d like to single out for the interested reader some of the, IMO, more solid stuff.

Since structuralism, Marxism, feminism, post-modernism, etc. have all proposed different, and sometimes contradictory approaches, a measure of order was introduced by D. Strinati’s book: An introduction to Theories of Popular Culture (1996). Then there was the classical book of Herbert Gans: Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste.(1999). A thoughtful criticism of Gan’s views, on the light of more recent developments, by Thomas Frank, is on-line: New Consensus for Old Cultural Studies from Left to Right.(2002)

On the subject of elitist vs. popular tastes towards landscapes two excellent Essays are recommended reading: one by Ronald Hepburn: Trivial and Serious in Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature and another by John Barrell: The Public Prospect and the Private View; the Politics of Taste in 18th Century Britain. (Both included in Landscape, Natural Beauty and the Arts, Cambridge Studies in Philosophy, 1995).

#2 : I am dealing mostly with the cases of Britain and France.  

. Although the “elitist narrative” seems to have much in common  in other Continents the ‘popular narrative’ may well have been different.

# 3:The subject of the influence ontourism of paid holidays for the working class is discussed in-depth by Susan Bartin in her book Working Class Organizations and PopularTourism (2005). Barton downplays the role of Cook’s tourism organization, considered sort of pioneering in European tourism; instead she highlights the role of Friendly Societies and other popular working-class

 voluntary organizations, mostly in the Lancashire cotton-towns before the advent of pay holidays.  This through “ the protection and extension of established spring and summer holidays, and on the collective accumulation of savings throughout the year in 'Going-off clubs'.”. 

  Barton aptly contends though that, for a real mass market to develop, holidays with pay had a determining role. The interested reader may find there also a thorough treatment of the role the railway companies played in this process and also of the one played by worker’s unions as organizers and promoters of popular tourism.

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