Typologies of Tourism Photography (in Translation)


I couldn’t find any “Ethno-Bild” images in my collection of photos, but the “Oh hey, grim architecture in the developing world” thing is pretty clichéd as well. From Lima, Perú.

Last Sunday, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s bloggy online stepchild Jetzt.de published a brief article entitled, “Everything is so wonderfully different here!” (Alles so schön anders hier!), which sketches out a semi-serious/semi-satirical typology of the kinds of vacation photos you’ll find on your friends’ Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram feeds (oh, and Google+ too, I suppose). Lately, I’ve been been up to here (*points to neck*) with work, preparing articles for publication and getting a book proposal ready and preparing for the job market and figuring out how to renew my visa and my passport at the same time and entertaining a constant stream of house-guests and AAAGH TOO MUCH. So, following the example of my post last month where I translated part of a German-language article on negative stereotypes about tourists, I thought I’d do the same with this article. Like that earlier post, I’m only translating a small portion of a longer article. If you can read German, I encourage you to check out the original article here; if you like what you read and wish you could read it in English, send ’em an email and suggest that they hire a brilliant and attractive freelance translator (*ahem*) so that you can read the whole thing.

1. The Ethnic Picture (Das Ethno-Bild)

“Example” image reproduced here with thanks from Jetzt.de/Süddeutsche Zeitung. Click on the image to go to the original article.

What you’ll see: People, certainly, but no tourist guides or other travelers; just real natives that live in some remote corner of the already-remote country of travel. In the photo, they’ll be wearing tribal garb or worn-out clothes that make it clear that you’re far away from the First World. They’ll ideally be engaged in some sort of traditional activity, such as baking bread in a clay oven. Most importantly, they should absolutely appear to be happy and enjoying life.

What the trip was like: Arduous, but if you want to see the real Africa, you sure won’t be traveling in a first-class tourbus. There was the day-long drive over muddy, pothole-filled roads through the rainforest, all the way to a tiny village. There were no hotels there, so the photographer had to ask the village elders if he could sleep in one of the family’s homes. The village visit is just one of innumerable strains—and of the innumerable and totally unforgettable encounters in this four-month trip, after which he’s planned a one-month aid project with an NGO.

The image title: “Limbambulu, Gambia.”

What the photo means: I am an adventurer. Those Lonely Planet pussies have nothing on me. I travel well beyond your lame tourist circuits and really get to know the country as it really is. Obviously, you can’t do that in two weeks.

What you’ll see in the comments:
“Oh, the places you get to…!”
“Awesome picture! They all have such a special radiance in their eyes! I love these people!”
“Must come back soon!”

———(End Translation)

Well, that’s one translated. The original article features four more, including The Gastro-Postcard, The Ironic Landmark, Transit Melancholia, and The Ocean View Crotch.

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