This photographic essay, “Of Place and Tourist”, examines a space at the intersection of residents and tourists exposing the tensions that manifest as a result of their divergent points of view. A resident’s connection to a space, through history, family, friends, memories, laughter, warmth, home, the consumption of local foods transforming earth to body, transforms it to a place that forms part of the definition of who they are, their self, their identity. For the tourist devoid of these experiences the dimensions around them are more distance, lacking the intimacy of “place”, and are interpreted through their education, imagination and desires; through their own cultural lens.
The blend of documentary and poetic styles of photography seeks to weave both rational and subjective threads into a narrative that raises questions for which there are no single answers. The first three images develop a narrative of a long and complex history, forming the foundation of a rich culture that embodies this place. The choice of subject is intended to convey permanence, and depth. The sequencing through time, with shared visual elements within the photographs, expresses the continuity. The co-existence of these subjects in the present positions culture and identity as a conglomeration of selected old and new fragments.
The second three images develop the tourists’ narrative who arrive in this space to visit its sites, and monuments. The brightness of these images in contrast with the first three juxtaposes the ephemeral and the long-lived. The blurred representation of the tourists portrays the submergence of the individual in favour of the formation of a shapeless mass, a horde that quickly descends out of a liminal space (the river in this case) and just as quickly returns. The open door of the church, offering a partial view of the interior, notes that as a tourist we are often given only a glimpse. Finally, the choice of a wide-angle lens that distorts the historical sites of Arles recalls to our attention that the tourist view is different from that of the resident.
Challenges lie in these different points of view. They represent a point of tension, tightened by the desire to both profit and retain the local culture. The history of Arles is recorded by the remnants of the peoples who have arrived in waves for thousands of years, that represent markers of the different views they contributed, from paganism to Christianity and our post-modern, secular world. Arlesians graciously offer their heritage to the world for all to see, spawning a new wave of arrivals, the tourist. Unlike the previous waves, these peoples come not to stay, but to gaze, take a selfie, and leave. Arlesians benefit from this, but how does it affect their culture? Is there balance? Who gets to select what is stirred into the conglomeration that is their evolving cultural mix? ...