We live in a world surrounded by photos – from signs, apps, magazines, newspapers to google images. Each image depicts a story, which is the very nature of photojournalism. We are in the era where most people have advanced to smart phones that take really good quality photographs. These photos zip around the world in seconds, making this type of ‘journalism’ extremely instantaneous and accessible. In terms of travel, photography is the easier and most rapidly growing method of narrating one’s adventures.
Even my grandmother, an avid traveller, has invested in a ‘Breezie’ (the pensioner literate version of the Ipad); which escorts her on holiday so I receive a running photo journal of where she’s been, what she’s seen and what’s she been up to. I love it! She always travels to exotic locations and inspires me to want to visit these places from how amazing the place looks in the photographs.
However, this hasn’t always been the case. I remember as a kid that my grandmother would send long letters (as we lived abroad) detailing her latest adventure. I would pour over these, imagining what the places she went to would look like, smell like and sound like. The key here is that I would have to imagine. Photography wasn’t that easy: even 10 years ago you had to bring a camera and spare films on holiday, then get the photos developed once you got home – before sending them to friends and family (abroad in my case), which would cost an arm and a leg. By the time I received the letter, it would be weeks later.
I love how instant modern technology is – the fact that I can receive a photo of someone in an amazing location within minutes. But, sometimes I feel that this instantaneity ruins the awe associated with recounting an adventure through words. When someone shows you a photo of a place, you only see a one dimensional side to it – i.e. what it looked like. Whereas, when somebody tells you about a place, you are told about the smells, sounds and temperature, as well as what it looked like.
Nowadays, photojournalism is becoming more popular than traditional written journalism. How many front covers of newspapers do you see with mainly images? Photojournalism was conceived during WW1 when images were beginning to be used to accompany articles, as they were seen to be more emotive than just words and meant that the main topic of a story could be portrayed to somebody in seconds. It wasn’t until the 30’s and 40’s when it was the photos that started to tell the stories. Since then, it has grown in popularity considerably. The remarkable growth of Instagram as a way of sharing travel photographs is proof of this.
But is this changing travel for the better?
Hearing somebody narrate about a place brings it to life and connects to all your senses, whilst still leaving some up to the imagination and inspiring you to want to visit (or not!). A photograph is a snapshot in time and never can be truly recreated. So, by looking at an image, you create a clear set of expectations for a place. You have that already constructed image in your head (down to the colour of the sea); so surely that can only lead to disappointment when you actually visit the place?