Project Journeys – The Tourist Gaze


I read John Urry’s ‘The Tourist Gaze’ and have been thinking about its relevance to documentary photography. The article describes how reality is experienced differently through the eyes of tourists and how the reality changes to suit to the expectations of the tourist’s gaze. I have moved around from country to country in the past 20 years and notice an distinct difference between the way I see my new home and country in the first year and later. Just as a tourist, I notice an investigation of deviance, which can reveal interesting and significant aspects of ‘normal’ societies’. 

The processes that take place when tourists look at their destinations, the conclusions they draw and expectations they have of what they will see and which image they store can be quite similar to documentary photography. Especially when there is not enough time to do research, when there are determined signs the tourist persues, there is the risk of constructing a ‘pseudo event‘ that disregards the real world outside this circumscribed world.

I think it takes experience, thorough preparation and self reflection to not fall into the tourist trap when it comes to documentary photography. Being aware of our tourist gaze is a good first step.

Urry, J. (2002). The Tourist Gaze. In: J. Urry, ed., 1st ed.


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