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What We Learned This Week: Do Photography Bans Help Curb Overtourism?

By David Schonauer   Friday February 14, 2020


The internet is filled with everyone’s travel pictures.

It’s also filled with stories about picturesque locations being overrun with Instagrammers — some risking injury and death, some simply wreaking destruction — hoping to awe the world with photos of their travels.

Journeying to far-off, exotic, or ruggedly beautiful places was once a privilege of wealth. But the proliferation of low-cost airlines and a growing number of people around the world with disposable income has changed that. And now tourists have a way to share their adventures online. “The rise of social media grew parallel with a growing democratization of travel,” noted CNN recently.

But, added reporter Lilit Marcus, a backlash to overtourism has set in. Some hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions such as museums have put strict limits on photography, others banning it outright, noted Marcus.

But do such bans work? It might depend on the type of ban.

Marcus pointed, for instance, to one tour operator, Jonny Bealby of Wild Frontiers, who decided to offer four trips (to Oman, Ecuador, Kyrgystan, and Mongolia) that would be absolutely unplugged, with visitors handing over their mobile phones on day one.

"We'll supply cameras if that's what you want — we don't stop people taking photos in the old sense, but we don't want people constantly trying to post and be on their phones," Bealby explained. He admits, though, that tickets for the trips aren't "flying off the shelf" just yet.

Meanwhile, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam tried letting people take pictures in the galleries, but ultimately decided to do something else. The museum created assigned spots (featuring blowups of iconic artworks) at which visitors can pose and make photographs without bothering others.

Expect more innovations aiming to quell the photographic urges of overeager influencers. Ad agency J Walter Thompson's annual Future 100 report predicts that "anti-Instagram interiors," like dark colored walls and dim lighting meant to deter would-be photographers, will become popular in the year to come, notes Marcus.

The idea, as Treehugger put it recently, is to “weed out the people who just want a picture from those who actually want to see a famous site.”

“There's something to be said for not being allowed to take photos everywhere and anytime,” writes Katherine Martinko. “We’ve become such camera-happy travelers that we've almost forgotten how to meander, observe, absorb, and remember without clicking a button.”

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:
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1.  Martine Fougeron's "World with Two Sons"

When does adulthood begin? This question is at the heart of photographer Martine Fougeron's longterm series focusing on her two sons, Nicolas and Adrien. Fourgeron began documenting the lives of her sons as they became adolescents, what she called the "liminal state between childhood and adulthood." The work was later published in the well received Steidl book, Teen Tribe. Fourgeron, we noted, continued photographing the boys as they journeyed into their 20s, and the combined projects are now collected in a new book, Nicolas et Adrien. A World with Two Sons.


2. A View from Inside Harvey Weinstein's Rape Trial

Curious onlookers, protesters demanding justice, police, and the media have filled the State Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan to witness movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial. Among those in attendance: New York-based photographer John Taggart, who told Time he felt compelled to cover the trial. “I think it’s crazy important,” said Taggart, who calls this case the #Metoo trial of the decade. His images have been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, as well as at Time’s Instagram account.


3. Landscape Photographer of the Year Winners

Russian photographer Oleg Ershov has been named winner of the sixth International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition with a portfolio of four images, including a photograph of Fleswick Bay, England (above). “My passion for landscape photography is based on a love of nature, especially in places where human intervention is not yet visible,” Ershov told the BBC. This year’s contest brought in 3,400 entries from 1,000 photographers around the world. (At top: a photo from third-place winner Blake Randall of Canada.


4. Capturing LeBron James's Perfect Moment

Andrew Bernstein, a longtime LA Lakers photographer, has captured no shortage of iconic basketball moments. But Bernstein told Sports Illustrated recently that the photograph he shot on Feb. 6 — showing LeBron James soaring for a reverse windmill dunk against the Houston Rockets — may have been his most memorable. Bernstein explained in detail how he got the shot, using a system of multiple remote cameras and two synchronized strobes going off on either side of the scoreboard.


5. A Moment from Colombian Photographer David Betancur's Travel Journal

David Betancur says he travels in order to find "character and scenarios." The Colombian photographer's portfolio is filled with people he finds on assignment and on his excursions throughout his country, which he records in what he calls "a sort of travel journal." Among the images in his journal is a shot of a girl resting on the edge of an abandoned swimming pool. "She told me, 'For enjoying the pool, there is no need to get wet in the water,'" Betancur recalls. His photograph, we noted, was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 8 competition.

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