Travel and photography have been inseparable since photography’s conception. Travel to distant lands became more accessible in the mid-1800s because of extensive railway networks. This quicker mode of transportation affected how travelers viewed the passing landscape. As Graham Smith states in his book, Photography and Travel, “Rail travel required adaptability on the part of the passengers, however, for the unprecedented speed affected vision.” Vision was affected because, as we know, to see something clearly while traveling at great speed, one must look into the distance. Thus, the passenger on a train cannot clearly see anything close to the train. As travel methods continued to improve to include airplanes, the traveler’s vision of the places they pass are obscured almost completely. This way of traveling affects how tourists travel across the cities and countryside’s they visit. The tourists rush from one historic or tourist destination to another.
The mid-1800s also saw the invention of photography. Into the late 1800s, photographs were made by photographers and sold as souvenirs. Travelers would purchase the photographs individually or in groups and return home to show their friends and loved ones what they saw. As technology advanced, the tourists themselves became the photographers. However, what continued to be photographed were the same scenes or similar views to the ones that had been purchased. These included wide vistas, monumental architecture or the wholly unfamiliar. As Susan Sontag has noted in her book, On Photograph, a photograph is “proof of having been there”.
Today, tourists continue to travel at a fast pace. Trends began in the early stages of photograph and travel have persisted into the 21st century. When travelers are in a specific location they want to photograph the monumental or the shocking. Every destination has a photograph that is made by every tourist. This is a subject that has been taken up by photographer Martin Parr. Furthermore, the ways used to travel from trains to planes influence the tourist once they are in a specific location. Many tourists move from one monument to another without taking in the views in between.
With this project, On the Road, I wanted to counter the typical travel photograph. The roads we travel are merely seen as a way of getting from point A to point B, like the rail line or a plane journey. However, by looking directly where I am stepping, I take not of the diversity that can be found at our feet. These photographs are from trips to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. I have found that in South Asia there is a need to look where you are stepping; and if you pay close attention and take in the details, what you find at your feet can be just as monumental or shocking as the images we hut for in our line of sight. In the end, these photographs are proof that I walked there.