Tourist Signatures: Explorations of Space and Place in Found Photographs

Burleigh, Peter and Jung, Sophie. (2012) Tourist Signatures: Explorations of Space and Place in Found Photographs. In: Tourists and Nomads: Amateur Images of Migration. Marburg, pp. 79-90.

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A collection of found black and white anonymous photographs from a junk shop in Basel dating from the 1930s to the 1950s pictures figures in landscapes; holiday-makers, tourists, hikers—the subjects vary. But one aspect is consistent: how the human figures are pictured in relation to the landscape. The photographs of course are a form of indexical key, a register of “having being there then”, which can be reviewed and reactivated in the now. They have a history inscribed in them, a frozen moment from the past. This argument, we claim, is well established in the history of photography. Yet further and perhaps more interestingly, these fascinating images are an approach to a personal signature. The individuals pictured in the landscape do not dominate, are not overbearing, rather they lay a claim to having been there while confirming that the place wherein they are pictured has a particular temporal and spatial existence. The tourists in these images confirm both their own place and placement in landscape while making that landscape foreign to them as distanced from their home space in which they reactivate being there when the photographed scene is gazed upon again by their or other (our) eyes. In this reading, the visuality practiced around these photographs already then started to fill the non-place of tourist destinations that were to become ever-more present; yet such photographs from then are markedly different from tourist images today. In the past images we examine, the tourist marked their destination and return home with the signature of presence in a photograph where the focus nonetheless remains on the specificity of the place visited. Nowadays, however, the tourist themselves become the centre of attention as destinations and the return from them are more homogenized, uniform and undifferentiated. As Marc Augé argues, the appearance of non-places - symbolic spaces governed by text and symbols often experienced as transit— removed from lived experience is accelerating. In terms of visuality then we are moving further away from the “real” lived places represented in our found photographs which have been pushed aside by the non-places of today. A process reinforced by a visuality which focuses more on the individual experience and less on the place wherein that experience occurred.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften > Fachbereich Englische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft
UniBasel Contributors:Burleigh, Peter Robert
Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item, refereed
Conference or workshop item Subtype:Conference Paper
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Conference paper
Last Modified:13 Jun 2017 08:37
Deposited On:13 Jun 2017 08:37

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