Touristic Attitude

While almost all photographers do their share of family photography, many photographers confer upon it other functions which are, in fact, only variants of its archetypal function. The intensification of photographic practice is very closely linked to holidays and tourism, but we should not conclude from this that all photographs taken on holidays or outings can escape being explained by the family function, or that the simple fact of an increase in the number of occasions which may be photographed is enough to determine the appearance of a practice vested with new functions. If the proportion of practitioners is higher among those who have summer holidays than those who have not, this is probably partly due to the fact that photographic practice, like the opportunity of taking holidays, is related to income, but also and particularly because of the fact that the holiday is one of the high points of family life.

In fact, the variations in the objective occasions for taking photographs which are linked, for example, to the length or the location of those holidays do not bring about any noticeable modification in the intensity of the modal practice, because this depends less on incentives such as the beauty of the landscapes or the variety of places visited than on socially defined occasions. Inasmuch as holidays are the occasion of more intense family relations (for example, for people who go to stay with their families) and more frequent social gatherings, it is natural that they should encourage the intensification of a photographic practice that has always had the express function of immortalizing the major events and high points of family life, so that holiday photographs generally remain photographs of the family on holiday.

Moreover, holidays determine the broadening of the range of the photographable and produce a disposition to take photographs which, far from being of different nature from the traditional disposition, is simply an extension of it: in fact, a practice that is so strongly associated with extraordinary occasions that it could be seen as a festive technique is naturally reinforced in a period which marks a break with the everyday environment and the routines of normal life. The adoption of what we might call the touristic attitude means escaping one’s inattentive familiarity with the everyday world, an undifferentiated background against which the forms momentarily separated from everyday preoccupations stand out . From that moment on, everything becomes a source of astonishment, and the travel-guide is a constant call to admiration, a manual of armed and directed perception.

Photography is what one does on holiday, and also what makes a holiday . . .

Pierre Bourdieu, Photography: A Middle-brow Art (1965), p. 35-36