Tourist photography has changed right before my very eyes these last 10 years. It used to be you’d ask a stranger to take a photo of you, with your camera, in front of a fountain or a palm tree or perhaps the Mona Lisa and hope that they didn’t run away with it. You managed that risk by only asking grandmas or other responsible looking women. Never some young guy with new sneakers and a flat brimmed baseball hat.
Then smart phones appeared on scene and everyone stood in place and held theirs over their head and smiled and took the shot. “Look, here I am smiling with the feet of strangers on this cobblestone street in the background.”
Selfie-sticks changed all that. They slowly crept into the landscape and now there are a hundred guys selling them on every square in Europe because it’s more convenient to buy one from a hustler than to go and pick one up in the dozen or so cell phone accessory stores that line the streets whose convergences forms those same squares. And this abundance has allowed people to start using them everywhere, all the time. In fact, people use them for all their smart phone photo needs. Not just Selfies. You see people whipping them around taking pictures of everything. Capitalizing on this trend, I have created a new hobby – photos of people taking photos of themselves. (I generally try to avoid photos of people taking photos of others, though once in a while one sneaks in.)
It’s not as easy as it looks – I have to be careful not to get caught. Although I’m probably overstating the actual danger because nine times out of ten these people are so absorbed in getting the perfect photo of themselves that they really don’t notice me taking their picture. Sometimes I try to get in their shot, so they’ll have a memory of me recording their memory. I miss a lot of opportunities since I have to be really quick on the draw. And location is important too – in Paris the Tuileries were the best, especially between the Louvre and the Ferris wheel. The courtyard outside the cathedral in Barcelona was a very rich hunting ground – I could have spent all day there filling up SD cards. I’ve not yet determined the best place in Sevilla, although our street is shaping up pretty well.
One the whole I manage to capture as many as I miss, and here are the regulars:
Every once in a while I stumble on something exceptional. This couple cracked me up – stop for coffee, play with the phone in a restaurant that could have been anywhere. “No, that really is Paris!”
I found this couple on the beach in Barceloneta. She took 4 photos, one from each cardinal point. Ocean, boardwalk, waterfront buildings, boardwalk. I only got 3.
I saw these two from the deck of our excursion boat. She gets an “A” for creativity, shooting first over her shoulder capturing them in profile staring out to sea and then for a tiny little shot of just her face.
Another high mark for creativity, this couple propped their iPad up on a bollard obviating the need for any kind of selfie-stick. Sort of creative merge of the old technology of asking a stranger for help with modern tablet photography.
And finally, the Queen of Selfies. Out in front of the Barcelona Cathedral she was shooting a video (!) of herself, spinning around and around, flipping her hair, smiling broadly while dragging her suitcase across the pavers. Perhaps she thought she was in a photoshoot for Vogue, or some 1960’s cinema verite Goddard film. I don’t know, but I was so dumbfounded that it didn’t occur to me that I could expand my hobby by shooting live-action instead of stills.
Maybe in the future?