Accepted paper:

Observing tourism: Photography as fieldwork


Kevin Meethan (Plymouth University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will examine the use of photography as a form of ethnographic fieldwork specifically in relation to tourism spaces.

Paper long abstract:

Tourism relies on the physical and conceptual creation and demarcation of spaces of leisure. In part this distinctiveness is create the use of visual clues and tropes which include not only the layout and functions of buildings and public/private spaces, but also the design and deployment of commercial signage and advertising. The creation of such spaces is more than just a matter of spatial appearances, as it also involves the active embodiment and performance of people as tourists. Capturing this dynamic interplay can be difficult, and the strong visual element inherent in tourist spaces makes them an ideal subject for the use of photography as a primary source of data, as photos have a unique ability to capture time and space in a way that other forms of data gathering, such as fieldnotes, do not. The immediacy of the recorded image however can mask a process that is selective not only in terms of the subject matter, but also governed by aesthetic codes and visual tropes, which also contribute to the development and maintenance of the tourism imaginary. Rooted in the documentary tradition of photography, this paper will examine some of the practical, ethical and theoretical issues that arise from using photography as a primary method of data collection in fieldwork, specifically in relation to the visual ethnography of tourism.

panel P12
Tourism and Photography