Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A guide to photography for tourists

Stand directly in front of the building/object you are taking the photo of. Don't look at it except through the viewfinder/screen of your camera/phone. Be ruthless – obscure anyone else's view if necessary: your photos are more important than theirs. Take thirty photos of the same thing and move on. It is important not to look at what you are taking a photo of except through the screen. This was a recent experience of tourists in the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (above, Leonardo's Madonna Litta, which may not even be painted by him). God, tourists are arrogant morons. Just buy a postcard! A photo of an object behind glass is never going to turn out well. Whilst I'm at it, tourists love using the flash, when, 1. They're not meant to (when there are No Flash! signs near a painting for example), or, 2. When it's going to ruin the photo (when it's of a reflective surface such as glass or when it's at night and they want to take photo of a cityscape, say). I often want to go over to them and tell them their photos are awful, if you're going to be compulsive about it, you may as well get to know some basics (don't zoom, flash is ugly, the golden rule of thirds etc). They're just oblivious.

Photography has pretty much always been an obsessive, cataloging thing, be it Bernd and Hilla Becher's industrial buildings and structures, Erwin Elliott's dogs, Walker Evans' shop fronts or, more recently, Stephen Zirwes' German public pools and Adrian Skenderovic's Down the river series.

But digital photography and social media have taken obsessive photography to a whole new level, where there's no need to look at anything anymore, just take a photo of it and upload it. The proof of having been there/done that is in the photo. It doesn't matter about the subject matter or the quality – the photo is the proof of existence. Where posting your breakfast on Instragram is the norm, the internet has made ordering, collating, curating and obsessing acceptable behaviour.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Lookalikes #26: Holiday adverts 
A brief history of photography

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