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Topic section: The world on a plate
The world on a plate
Picture: 1990-5036_6032_0026s1embed.jpg
Europeans photographing an Asian man, about 1925.
Credit: NMPFT
From its beginnings, photography has played a dominant role in creating and spreading images of the world. Photography shapes our vision of the world and our perception of travel. In turn, travel is one of the main reasons why people take photographs. Indeed, the very invention of photography can be traced directly back to William Henry Fox Talbot’s attempts to capture the landscape of Italy while on his honeymoon in 1833.

Photography, film and television are powerful tools of memory, returning us vicariously to places we have visited in the past. But they are also much more – they are tools of the imagination, transporting us to places we have never been.

Photography is the perfect complement to mass tourism

In the nineteenth century, a combination of cheap publishing and mass-produced photographic images made imaginary travel available to everyone for the first time. At the same time, advances in transport revolutionised physical travel. Rather than something to be endured, travel became something to be enjoyed for its own sake.

It is no coincidence that the growth of mass tourism happened at the same time as the birth of popular photogra
Picture: 1992-5063_0019s1embed.jpg

'The Island Pagoda', about 1871.
Credit: NMPFT

phy. Photography is the perfect complement to mass tourism, providing travellers with the ideal means of preserving their experiences and of appropriating the sites (and sights) they have seen.

We take snapshots and videos – usually including ourselves in the picture – so that we can relive our holidays when we return home and share our experiences with family andfriends. Unwilling to wait until we return home, we also send photographic postcards which reinforce popular perc
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Tom Browne postcard, ‘Taking a Group’, 1906.
Credit: NMPFT
eptions of exotic locations where the sea is always blue, the sunsets are always red and there are never crowds of tourists with cameras.

However, while most of us take still and moving images of our holidays, much of our travelling is still done vicariously. In 1850, Charles Dickens created the character of Mr Booley, a clerk who travelled the world by visiting panoramas: ‘All my modes of transport have been pictorial.’ Today, whether it is through photography, film, television or ‘new media’, we all still have a great deal in common with Mr Booley.

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Topic section: Capturing the experience
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Images have been combined with motion, sound and even smell to try to recreate the physical sensation of travel. ‘Immersive’ technologies such as widescreen films and 3D attempt to make us feel part of the action.  > more

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Topic section: Egypt in Las Vegas
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Despite technological advances in transport and communication, the world is still a big place. How much more convenient, then, to bring all the major sights together in one place to be enjoyed in a single day!  > more
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