The historical spread of photography in the latter half of the 19th century, for me, very much mirrors what has been happening since the popularisation of digital photography and the use of social media for sharing said. Initially, the popularity of landscape and topographical photographs allowed as small number of photographers to visit new places and transmit the likeness to those who may never otherwise witness such places. Now, we see a mass popularity of people traveling themselves and sharing the images. This democratisation of the process of travel photography has also led to a fair degree of homogenisation. I have experienced this first hand, given that it was travel that first made me think about photography. For example, several years ago I spend a month or so in Budapest. The city itself fast became one of my favourite places. At that time, photography was very much a by product of my love of travel (whereas I would now say that I travel primarily to photograph). The pictures I made that summer were almost entirely informed by other pictures I had seen in travel guides and on the internet. I was particularly proud of the famous (i.e. cliched) picture of the Hungarian Parliament building by night.
A few years later, I returned, this time in winter and with a year or so ‘serious’ interest in photography behind me. Instead of photographing the famous landmarks, I tried to capture how the city felt to me.
The downside here is that the resulting shots (though I feel they were successful in their aim) were very much a personal record of my visit and my reaction to the place. As I am also a musician, the best analogy I could think of is the difference between karaoke and songwriting. My ideal, then, is photography that captures the feel (I hesitate to use nebulous words like ‘soul’) of a place that may inform the viewer about the actual place, rather than just my personal impressions of it. Somewhere in the middle – both mirror and window. This, for me, is what makes successful travel photography. As to what exactly that consists of, this is something I hope to explore over coming weeks.