Should you even take a camera on holiday?
- 29 July 2013
Visit any beautiful or historic site and the crowds of people taking photos are denser than ever. Should you ditch the camera completely when going on your hols, asks Finlo Rohrer.
Wandering around the Istanbul Archaeological Museum I chanced upon a woman carefully moving around a room full of clay tablets of Akkadian cuneiform.
Taking pictures of every single one.
She was not an archaeologist or a museum official - just an ordinary tourist. Now, as examples of early writing go, Akkadian cuneiform clay tablets are up there. But who was she going to show this extraordinary series of snaps to?
"And here's a brown tablet with indecipherable marks on it. And here's another. Look at the scratches on this one..."
If she really wanted a comprehensive set, the museum had surely already had them done by a professional. Or perhaps this snapper just liked a challenge. The museum has 74,000 tablets of this kind.
It all seems to be part of the mania that has turned everyone into archivists.
"The quest to photograph has become a substitute for the experience itself," says Sophie Grove, of Monocle magazine. "This quest to catalogue and archive your holiday - it's almost irresistible when you're there with your exciting new camera," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
With their constant snapping, people are diminishing their memories, she suggests. "By producing a camera, suddenly you are once removed from the scene."
Documentary photographer Martin Parr advocates a change of mindset. "Try and think of things that are ephemeral and will change. When you are eating, photograph the meal, if you are going out to the supermarket, photograph that as well."
The ultimate argument against photographing most things on holiday is that someone else has already done a better job. "We've seen what the Taj Mahal is like," Parr notes. "The reality is when you get there there's another 500 people trying to photograph it as well."
And do you really want to be in a crowd of people - ignoring a security guard's plaintive bleating - and slowly destroying a famous fresco with a thousand flashes?