Series of photos taken on film in June 2001 on a conference trip to the US, so couple of months before 9/11. Maybe proper name is 2001, Age of innocence, joy of travelling and photographing the journey. Element of Americana is in the photos of course, artist as a tourist, intimate portraits of performance artists. They resonate today in an interesting way.
What kind of pictures do we take nowadays in comparison to the time before the digital cameras and camera phones? I got my first digital camera 2008 but digital started to boom after 2001. How has our focus changed as a photo is instantly seen and quickly manufactured, spread and shared. What makes a good photograph and a good photographer as we all practice photographing and have cameras in our pockets? Have we managed to achieve skill and eye for perfect photos and how we perceive perfection in a photo and what we choose to publish? Is it the lighting, complicated technicalities, background and flawlessness that is almost artificial which is paid attention to? Maybe issue is the sense of authenticity in a photo, finding something rare, what is a valuable moment and target to film and be made into an object to look at, does it not require skill to manufacture meaning, feeling, ideas of one’s own via photography and what is the one’s own made visible with a method which is mass production. Photography is a method for all to use, it is exploration in a same way as travelling, to know about and master but what does image tell us and what kind of images do we pay attention to, what is the interest today, of today? What are the clichés in picturing and do we recognise clichés we fall for? What are the most photographed places and people? Are they things we like, are amazed by and which qualities have a mass appeal, cuteness, sexiness and size? Repetition is telling. Interest in and imitation of something which doesn’t lose its fun, value or something we want to be, be part of and what we look for in life? Interests of modern people remain curiously unchanged. Important question is how cameras and social media have changed the way we travel and take pictures? How much do we do the going away from everyday and the immortalising of extraordinary or ordinary out of impulses we get via social media, what is the seen there that raises interest and what is value there? How tourists look the same with their luggage, sunglasses, shorts, cameras, they sound the same, do the same very predictable things; tastes and desires don’t obviously vary that much and secure choices have a lure of easiness in them.
Publishing of travel photographs is banal, an everyday thing but it does not lose its charm as doesn’t shopping or partying. Here I am, look where I am and have been to. The further the trip goes the better, but how far are we willing step, what is the ultimate purpose of tourism is the obvious fulfilment and pleasure, intimacy and revealing of self. Is there something extraordinary in this ordinary practice other than the thought of it being special, being free to go, the opportunity and chance. The trip that was one of a kind exploration whatever the destination, relaxed or stressed out, found out something new or something that was expected. Travel photo is an interesting category where beauty of the seen view is emphasised, the experienced weather, location and what we were supposed to experience, surprises, disappointments, troubles or effortlessness of making the trip. Witnessing distant far away beauty and locations is the expectation, people, sights, wonders and happenings. Being part of something distant, new, maybe untouchable and rare but nonetheless not quite unknown. Are the stereotypes of travelling the same as stereotypes of living as we know what we want and want to show the best in us, be the best kind, be in control, having the best light, the fun moments to remember, displaying our interests which are normal and proper, but still we go search something else? To beautify for a photo is something we like doing, tidy up and look your best, pose with others or alone, in front of something. Controlling our image is important, what we show of ourselves. The unescapable banality of posing, looking, looking like the modern lifestyle we own. Travelling today is a sport, a cliché as a whole, how we do it, why we do it, what we make of travelling. As an industry and as leisure activity it amplifies and enhances our personas and lives bringing quality and debt via what it is worth and what can be learned via travelling. It is extraordinary and ordinary at the same time, grand and small, luxurious on one hand, poverty in action and thought: how could something so rich and giving be so poor and lacking?
The things we want of a photo and of a trip is interesting. There is something similar to them which is about fantasy and realising dreams, becoming and reaching out. The word cliché can mean the whole of human existence which we want to picture as it repeats the similar desires over and over again and we like to do it in a mass movement. What does this cliché of ours make of us as we repeat it, hold on to it, like it, share it, think it as something worth while, that something unchanged is safe and good. How does originality come to show in contrast to mass tourism and mass of photos?
How do we measure growth and what is the goal? To grow for us or in the eyes of others? Growth is measured via having gained more, growing bigger, understanding, learning, having, owning, expanding. We like to think there is no end to our growth, there is no end to our needs either. Travelling is a big part of modern life, it signifies the good life, enjoying ourselves, expanding horizons and paradoxically personal growth. To having been there where it is different than where we usually live, having found something exotic and new, something to tell about and compare. What are the things to expand from and how big is enough when nothing is enough? Personal growth we perceive and examine via where we come from and what is the essence of us that is to be cultivated. Travelling is a place of change but what changes? What is the starting point and what are the possibilities, individual potential and interests, how we perceive our own individual growth as human beings, how necessary it is, what is it and how we appreciate it. What is the needed change there? What is personal growth worth to us and which qualities we like to see grow in us and us growing towards the world?
What happens when we move and take up going? A relief, a release, sense of self letting go, achieving and going through a process. It is a process to which we usually must prepare for, a state of mind which is chosen. We think about going, we get ready mentally and take care of official matters that must be in order for travelling to be possible and we will not be turned away, be without money, accommodation and information about our destination. Plans must be there ready so we know where we are going and what to do when we get there. We don’t want anything drastic to happen but we are prepared, aren’t we. To get lost in a strange place is scary. Interesting is how we either can just go but rather choose not to, fear is keeping experimentation at its minimum. Preparation for safety is a ritual where one takes care of oneself before, during and after the trip. Also place where one is based must be in good order to come back to. We don’t want to go back to problems, mess and stress, unpaid bills, uncleaned home, messy relationships. That is an ideal place to get going.
Where do we have to go? Why are we compelled to go far as if there is something better, to say we went, we did and we were there? Is it a matter of going, moving and changing of scenery, finding or something else?