➟ Too Many Lenses, Too Few Eyes

“Camera, Camera” captures one of the most disturbing examples I know of the way tourists can overwhelm their subjects. It is the scene of what once was a heart-stopping moment in the ancient town of Luang Prabang: the early morning procession of hundreds of barefoot monks in their bright orange robes, carrying begging bowls. As the film shows, this sacred ritual is now swarmed by scores of bustling tourists, some of whom lean in with cameras and flashes for closeups as the monks pad silently past. “Now we see the safari,” a local artist, Nithakhong Somsanith, told me bitterly. “They come in buses. They look at the monks the same as a monkey, a buffalo. It is theater.”

The New York Times’ Lens blog on a new documentary about the increasingly intertwined acts of travel and photography, and the difficulties facing news photographers. One of the points I found interesting: how reframing experiences for the camera may be robbing us – travelers as a whole – of what joys come of immediacy and individual perspective. Certainly the opportunity to take new photos outside of my regular existence is one of the main reasons I get excited about travel; the surrounding unrecorded moments seem almost a scatter of sensual information in my memory, lacking narrative. It’s those that are probably worth more.

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