Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Ethics of Tourist Photography: Tourists' Experiences of Photographing Locals in Peru

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Ethics of Tourist Photography: Tourists' Experiences of Photographing Locals in Peru

Article excerpt

Introduction

Tourism is inherently influenced by current lifestyle and consumption practices and reflects them. As Goodwin and Francis (2003) recognise: "responsible tourism is emerging as a significant market trend in the UK as wider consumer market trends towards lifestyle marketing and ethical consumption spread to tourism" (page 271). Research offers insights into the ethics of sustainable production, management, and consumption of the tourist experience (see Fennell, 2006; Miller and Twinning-Ward, 2005; Mowforth and Munt, 2009; Weeden, 2001); debates conceptualisations of ethics within tourism in general (see Fennell, 2006; Fleckenstein and Huebsch, 1999; MacBeth, 2005; Smith and Duffy, 2004); or explores opportunities for stakeholder empowerment (see Joppe, 1996; Ladkin and Bertramini, 2002; Li, 2006). Yet, despite the ubiquitous relationship between tourism and photography (see, for example, Baderholdt et al, 2004; Chalfern, 1979; Crang, 1997; Crouch and Lubbren, 2003; Haldrup and Larsen, 2003; 2009; Sontag, 1979; Urry, 2002), surprisingly little attention is afforded to the ethics of tourist photography.

As Human (1999) suggests: "photography has an ambivalent relationship with tourism. Many destinations visited ... have a strong identity and sense of place, which is embodied in the history, physical form and social activity. However, photography selectively extracts from this multifaceted expression" (page 80). The inherent selectivity of photographing arises as tourists search for and construct subjects to fulfil anticipatory imaginings and preferred narratives of place as experientially encountered (see Ateljevic and Doorne, 2002; Crawshaw and Urry, 1997; MacDonald, 2002; Said, 1994). Nevertheless, a gap persists in unpacking the ethical complexities that underpin tourists' photographic practices and, as a tool for consuming and constructing the tourist experience, it is imperative to understand the ethics of such central practices as they directly affect tourist experiences, and the lives and well-being of those photographed at destination.

Photography is not an end in itself (Teymour, 1993). Rather, drawing upon work that outlines the difficult ethical calculations that occur in the moment of photography more generally [see Prosser (1999), and also the work by Cohen et al (1992), Gillespie (2006), Maoz (2006), and Scarles (2012), who address tourist-local photographic interaction], I aim to unpack the ethical complexities of the seemingly fleeting relationships between tourists and host communities as local residents become photographed subjects and, often, objects of the tourist gaze (Palmer and Lester, 2007; Urry and Larsen, 2011). Photography does not simply emerge through single and coherent ethical frameworks that underpin practice (Prosser, 1999). Rather, the ethics of tourist photography emerge as a more nuanced and complex understanding of the power relations that are produced between self and other. This paper adds to these wider debates by illustrating the ethical negotiations tourists enact with themselves, each other, and the local subjects in the moment of photographing. Based on empirical evidence of tourists' experiences of photographing locals in Peru, this illustration advances understanding of the ethics of tourist photography as it demonstrates a highly sophisticated mode of ethical reflection and negotiation rather than a single, immutable calculus of right or wrong. I do this by first establishing a theoretical framework before introducing empirical data in order to unpack the range of photographic strategies tourists adopt as they negotiate performances of privacy, permission, and payment during photographic encounters with others. I then attend to the negotiations of self and the other that arise as tourists transpose subjectivities onto those being photographed. Finally, I address the unpredictability of tourist photography as an emergent violence of ethics within the immediacy of encounter (see Scarles, 2009). …

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