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Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tourist photography may be helpful to destination health






Despite perceptions of dependency photos can actually benefit destination communities


A new report says that, despite perceptions of being photographed as perpetuating cycles of dependency and disempowerment, findings clearly indicate opportunities for empowerment and independence for locals through positive social and cultural change:

  • Although tourists are at times disrespectful; objectifying locals, refusing payment, and giving unusable currency. However, significant benefits are realised as:
  • As an opportunity for social empowerment through increased income, access to food, clothing, healthcare, housing and education.
  • As opportunities for increased social exchange with tourists, thus increasing locals' confidence and communication skills as well as opening opportunity to learn languages.
  • As an opportunity for reigniting and reinforcing cultural identity.


The report also says that tourists rely upon a series of strategies and subjective interpretations as they often make decisions in the moment of photographing.


Tourists are more comfortable photographing general street or festival scenes where there is minimal intrusion. Alternatively, photographs of locals are taken during organised tours where photographing is assumed to be accepted


Respondents generally prefer to photograph 'natural' or 'sneaky' shots from afar and adopt a range of strategies to do so. Responsible photographing and minimising intrusion manifests through remaining elusive and unseen


Where permission is required, some respondents overcome language limitations by gesturing with the camera or seek advice from tour guides


Tourists have mixed views with regard to paying for photographs. Some doubt the authenticity of locals waiting to be photographed and refrain as they are perceived to reinforce 'touristy' and 'staged' stereotypes. Others view this as an opportunity to photograph culture, or that it is the right of locals to charge to have their photograph taken


For some, payment is a form of mutual exploitation as locals and tourist benefit from the exchange, while for others alternative payments are realised by buying produce. Some tourists prefer to not pay for photographs at all


Tourists are uncertain of the effects of photographing locals for payment


Tourists rely upon personal perceptions and interpretations when deciding whether to photograph. This can relate to cultural preference, personal dislike of being photographed and/or imagining themselves in the position of the locals being photographed


Generally, respondents exhibit an ethics of care towards locals and experience discomfort and unease when photographing.


Tourists generally rely upon a series of judgement calls as they read 'clues' as to how locals may react to being photographed


With no universal rules, photographing becomes unpredictable. Tourists often break their own rules as they become caught up in the moment.


The report reccomends:
  • sound working relationships between the Municipalities and locals continue and are further developed. This may arise through increased transparency and communication that may result in further stability for all parties.
  • locals refrain from pressuring or 'hassling' tourists and continue advising on amount and voluntary nature of payment.
  • tour guides and tour leaders provide further advice with regard to local culture, employment, customs, beliefs and values and the effect of photographing on locals. It is also vital such advice also contains information with regard to permission and payment.
  • Provision of key information and assistance from tour leaders and tour guides is therefore vital in further enhancing relationships and positive social and cultural exchanges between tourists and locals


FROM: THE EFFECTS OF TOURIST PHOTOGRAPHY ON HOST COMMUNITIES: THE CASE OF PERU A report compiled from research conducted at The University of Surrey and funded by the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC) by Dr Caroline Scarles


Valere Tjolle
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