Travel in an Instagram world
Is travel about wanting to see the world, or wanting the world to see you?
A couple of weeks ago, Facebook thought I might be interested in something called Shoot My Travel. Intrigued, I visited their website. Basically, the site connects travellers with a photographer and takes them on a tour of the city they’re visiting. The twist? The tour’s curated around spots that are the most photogenic and the traveller is the focus, with the location merely the supporting act. It’s not for me, but the marketing’s pretty savvy for today’s Instagram-obsessed world. In their “How It Works” section, they say:
Experience the city
Once everything is coordinated, it’s time to meet your photographer and start
the photo tour. Your photographer will guide you through the best spots in
the city while taking candid pictures of you along the way. Our photo tours
are a travel experience where you can learn from the culture, language
and hidden gems of your destination!
I’m a bit dubious. I can’t see how much you’ll be learning about the culture, language and hidden gems of a city when there’s a photographer fussing about getting the perfect shot. And of course, that’s going to be important, because client satisfaction depends on it. If you weren’t bothered about how you looked, you’d have signed up for a regular walking tour instead. It’s not cheap, either, with prices for a one location shoot typically between about $200 and $230. Stretch that to two locations and a “tour” lasting two hours, and the price jumps to over $300. Call me picky, but it’s not much of a city tour if you only visit one or two places, is it?
A 2017 article in The Independent stated that finding an Instagram-worthy location was the most important factor in choosing a destination among millennials. The poll was carried about by an insurance company and surveyed 1000 18-33 year olds. Of course, questionnaires can be easy to skew, but the result (over 40%) seems high enough to be significant. A bit more digging and it would seem that hotels might be jumping on the Shoot My Travel bandwagon (or is it the other way round?) This Evening Standard article reports on the “social media butlers” provided by the Conrad Maldives Rangali.
So why does this bug me so much? Surely, a live and live attitude is the way to go? But travel to some of the world’s most famous landmarks has become frustratingly busy, and the queues to get a selfie (or several) a real turn off. Thanks to the internet, the more that post, the more that follow them. I now think twice about even booking somewhere mainstream in peak season – I just don’t have the patience, let alone control over my mouth, for that to be a good idea. It bores me to see numerous copycat versions of the same scene, when all that’s changed is the person in them. Diversity and creativity fall by the wayside in the clamour to be like everyone else. And don’t get me started about those gaze-into-the-distance shots where the person doesn’t even show their face – I can’t see the point of that kind of image at all.
However (and here’s the hypocrisy) it’s a real buzz when I find a spot that I can enjoy by myself, though of course by promoting it in the articles I write and sharing it on my social media feeds I’m part of the problem.
So why take photographs at all? I’ve taken tens of thousands of pictures over the years and looking back through them is a wonderful way of reliving my travels. Memories blur with age and poring over an album from twenty years ago is a reminder of just what we forget. Of course, the really special memories are engraved on your soul, as are those want-to-forget moments, but it’s good to get a refresher of those that fall somewhere in the middle.
So I’ll keep taking snaps while I’m travelling, but the vast majority of them won’t have me in them. And I certainly won’t be paying hundreds of dollars for someone to photograph me while I do. What about you?
All the images in this post were sourced from Pixabay, using the search term “Travel”.
It should be no surprise that I feel exactly the same way Julia! I kind of wish that popular sites would institute a “no-selfie” time period so that people could go in and just enjoy the site without having to wait for 100+ people to take the same photos of themselves as everyone else. But maybe that’s my age speaking…;-) On Facebook I often see people asking how they can get such great looking photos and I’m like – those people hired someone or used a professional camera, planned the shoot with those clothes/hair, spent 1hr+ there to get the shot, etc. These are not on-the-fly shots that they like to make them seem.
I remember reading someone’s thoughts about Instagram photos (I think he was a self-proclaimed influencer) and he kept bashing the photos that had no one in them, as in, why would I want to look at a photo without anyone in it? Of course, I feel the opposite. I also get incredibly annoyed when I read blogs or travel advice and EVERY SINGLE PHOTO is a selfie of the author. I don’t mind one or two, but not every single one. If that person is not my friend or family, I’m not really interested in multiple photos of them. It really is narcissism at its best, although most people don’t see it that way.
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July 20, 2019 at 5:28 am
Rachelle, a selfie-free time would be such a good idea! It might only take one popular attraction to trial it…
July 20, 2019 at 7:33 am