Exercise : The Tourist Gaze

Read the first chapter of The Tourist Gaze . Core resources :Urry_TouristGaze.pdf

Write a 200-word reflective commentary about its relevance to documentary photography.

The growth of travel and tourism has led to easy access to previously inaccessible places . Holidaying is a leisure pursuit , not an everyday experience . The tourist gaze is defined as the expectations of tourists , who having been sold the ‘dream holiday’ , expect indigenous people to behave in a preconceived manner and are seeking exciting and culturally different experiences. The tourist gaze evolves , it changes over time and differs between social groups. It is also dependant on the experiences of the observer and how far it differs from their normality. What might be defined as normal in one society may well be considered perverse in another.

Whilst benefitting financially local communities are faced with the prospect of appeasing tourism , their cultural way of life reduced to a stereotypical ideal expected of them. I am sure I am not alone in having been to a ‘staged’ performance of some sort whilst on a foreign holiday , camera at the ready to record the event. What can be seen and experienced as a tourist is frequently restricted and controlled by holiday companies , local regulations , and even by the situation of the hotel. The tourist accepts these limitations and needing proof of having been there takes the expected holiday photographs , but what do they actually tell us about the reality of the place visited ?

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6 thoughts on “Exercise : The Tourist Gaze

  1. Eddy Lerp

    Since I started my BA I’ve wondered about this issue a lot. It’s surprising when you spend a lot of time in a foreign country how much different the day-to-day culture actually is compared to the sights that are laid on for tourists. Having said that, there is obviously a cultural base to what they show to visitors and is generally practiced at certain times of the year by them in festivals and religious ceremonies, so what they show tourists is really the glitzy bits of their culture, not something they themselves necessarily practice every day. Similarly their dress may be culturally significant but they don’t usually wear it these days as a matter of course; take for instance the traditional dress of a Welsh woman, great for tourists but i doubt very much that anyone wears it for real anymore. As you say, what does all this signifythis signify? A great experience to take away when you go home, some colourful pictures and a lasting memory I suppose.

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  2. Judy Bach Post author

    Yes Eddy your quite right , to understand a culture you really need to immerse yourself in it , not easily done on the annual 1 or 2 week break !
    Still I have boxes of happy memories 🙂

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  3. Catherine

    It’s the same with London. All those tourists gazing at Buckingham Palace, climbing the lions in Trafalgar Square and photographing selfless with the guards on duty. The only thing I can say in my defence (having been on some of those ‘tours’ is that on some occasions it did whet my appetite to go back and be more exploratory.

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    1. Catherine

      Yes. I’ve noticed them around a lot more. Why are they more annoying somehow than tourists asking someone else to take a photo for them. Have just remembered, when were were on a tour in china some years ago my husband was taking a photo of me and some young Chinese people, including young soldiers, were watching and smiling and then the trying to edge near to get in the photo so I invited them. We must have got a photograph somewhere.

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