Tourists are so obvious.
It is not the camera that gives them away. In Paris, there are professionals with cameras dangling from their necks on every street corner, so photography isn’t that unusual. What gives the tourists away is their subject matter- the “candid” Paris. This includes photographs of older women watering flowers, street cleaners, busy intersections, waiters sprinting from table to table, etc. The common theme is people, presumably french-speaking Parisians, living their day-to-day lives with no direct relationship to the photographer.
Voyeurism is an unspoken subculture of the contemporary camera-sporting tourist. I had never noticed it before moving here, but having become the subject of “candid” Paris photography, it is really starting to piss me off. Refer to the photograph below.
Metro 1, Défense. See that man with the Nikon? His wife is the woman looking to the left. A minute before I captured this picture, Nikon took my photograph. He was trying to be discreet. I saw him lining up the shot from the corner of my eye. I turned to face him. He was looking in a different direction as his finger pressed the button. As if it wasn’t already obvious, Nikon looked directly at me after he took the picture and then checked his screen. Busted.
As you can see, I got a photograph of my own. I don’t know if it was my dark Lennon sunglasses or Psycho Killer playing through my headphones, but I suddenly I got the courage to pull out my little Canon. I pointed it in his direction for a good 10 seconds, just so that Nikon could understand how it felt. He turned away and I took my photograph. Just after I captured this, his wife clued in, horrified. She tugged her husband into a different area of the train.
Tourists participate in voyeurism all the time without realizing it. (Mother…) Even I have taken my share of travel candids in the past, but I will be reconsidering them in the future now that I understand how it feels being looked at through a stranger’s lens. Not just a stranger, however, but a tourist who deems my essence worthy of their photo album.
In conclusion, I ask you to contemplate how many coffee tables your face may grace.