What is Tourism.

What is tourism — A subject I have grappled with as a photographer and tourist: sometimes I am both, sometimes I am just one. How do we separate our bewilderment with a new place from our job as photographers and documenters? What responsibility do we carry as tourists in a foreign place, versus how locals see us when we flash a camera? How do we show places accurately that have been photographed thousands of times through the tourism industry? Is a place less or more appealing because it is touristy and over-seen? What does ‘authentic’ tourism look like? Can you be a tourist in your own home?

 

Or maybe the impacts of tourism, whether positive or negative, birth a complex cultural landscape, and therefore an interesting subject matter for a photographer. 

Mass Tourism.

 

New York City and Athens – some of the most visited tourist-destinations in the West. Both sprawling metropolises in their own rights, landmark-cities that have shaped our world: Athens and its ancient roots in human civilization; New York City and its unfathomable influence in modern culture. 

 

Unlike postcards, the photos may not immediately give away their location, while at the same time attempt to capture a quintessential element of the ubiquitous cities.

Analogue black and white film — Summer 2022.

New Yorkers flee the crowds to a nearby beach. Are they tourists in their own homes?  

The Athens Acropolis is almost impossible to capture on its own. Have the crowds become a part of its identity?  

The Sacred Black Sea. 

On the crowded beaches of Batumi and Sozopol on the Black Sea in Georgia and Bulgaria respectively, vendors, waiters and tour guides rarely speak English — maybe Russian if you’re lucky. But there is no reason why these places aren’t flooded with tourists from around the world. These towns could be the ultimate beach destination and if you ask locals, are a tourist haven: Jet skis and popsicles, mojitos and beach balls, night clubs and cafe’s, magnets and keychains. They are crowded, but without many foreigners form outside the region, if any at all. 

 

Not too far away is Greece where in some places tourists come en-masse from across the globe. Prices soar and at times, authenticity dwindles. Yet, few have ventured just a bit north to Bulgaria or across the Black Sea to Georgia. Places like Batumi and Sozopol are a go-to for Georgians and Bulgarians — perhaps even too touristy for some — yet sacred and untouched by the global tourism industry. 

 

Without context, these photos could have been taken anywhere — they put into question what defines a place as ‘attractive’ to tourists, the cultural preconceptions of post-Soviet countries, and why they aren’t marketed in the global tourism industry. 

Home is a destination.

Growing up near San Francisco with European parents who had just moved to California, my relationship to my hometown was in some ways, that of a tourist.

My parents took me to the touristy parts of San Francisco on the weekends because they were simultaneously exploring this new and foreign place as newcomers. Even today, we still visit the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Warf as though it were the first time, blending in and taking photos alongside the actual tourists although we have lived there for over 20 years.

 

We have tried to venture into the more grungy areas like the Mission District, but something always pulls us back to our favorite spots – be it nostalgia, tradition or the inherent tourist within us. 

Since moving away from California, returning home also feels like being a tourist. I find myself reveling in the things that I was so used to before and appreciating them as a photographer with different perspectives I've picked up living in other places. San Francisco is no longer my home and it is not where my parents are from, but it remains to be the place I grew up in and a tourist destination both for myself and many others. 

Visiting my parents’ hometowns in the summers always felt a little bit like a touristic experience, while also simply being a visit to a home away from hone. I live like a local there, going grocery shopping with my grandmothers, aunts and uncles, helping to cook dinner or clean the dishes, rarely needing to look up directions and recognizing people in the streets.


I feel at home in San Giovanni, my mother’s hometown in the Italian countryside outside of Bologna, and Karlsruhe / the Black Forest, my father’s hometown in southwestern Germany, I am both a tourist and a local when visiting these places. My photos here come from both a sense of bewilderment and familiarity, photographing  places I call home while also being on vacation. 

While I am used to the aspects of these places such as the old European architecture, the famous cuisines and the sweeping landscapes, I still find them beautiful the same way a tourist might, although it is all a part of my identity and heritage.