There exists a historical link between the photographic image and recreational space in Western society. From the concept of the holiday to current ideas of world travel, recreation and photography are modern twins. Since its early invention, photography has become associated with traveling from the traditional landscape photography of Ansel Adams photographing in Yosemite National Park, to the American ‘road trips’ of contemporary photographers like Stephen Shore, photography has been used to capture these recreational spaces. The idea of where and how we spend our ‘free time’, in itself a relatively new concept, has been a rich source of image making either by the tourists themselves through their own snapshots and postcards, or the photographer wanting to capture this ritual.
At the same time photography has been used to create a myth on which the tourism industry is built. The dream of the deserted beach or exciting city depicted in holiday brochures will inevitably be shattered by the bus of German tourists showing up. With our cameras we then crop out those tourists and other unwanted elements to recreate that manufactured idea of ‘paradise’ we have been sold. We create our own paradise, our own memories regardless of how true they might be.
Photographer Martin Parr, known for holding up the proverbial mirror to show us the strange rituals we partake in, produced a book entitled Boring Postcards (2000) depicting the extremely banal everyday spaces captured on postcard in the 1960s. This was a time when the sending of postcards was commonplace to how ‘we were here’, even if it was the most mundane of settings. Today we would rather snap a picture with our mobiles and send it to a friend, but it is still the same ritual.
This history of images around recreation brings up many questions: How does photography mediate tourists’ experiences of places and produce tourist geographies? How do we interact with these spaces in a recreational way, from the public parks, swimming pools and playgrounds in our cities to the Butlin’s-like packaged holiday plan? How do we even define recreational spaces today, a pristine landscape or a space of luxury and opulence? These are, and have always been, fertile grounds for reflecting on the human condition.
Dominic Clark, Stephen Connell, Carey Gough, Roger Hopgood, Andrew Jones, Dragana Jurisic, Joe Lang, Marianne Lind, Phillip McArthey, Kerry O’Reilly, Annalise Richter, Urszula Sliz, Paul Sucksmith, Johnny Watton, Stig Weston