Let’s start the week with an experiment: yesterday, I was scrolling through the “Explore” page of Instagram and I discovered Tirta Gangga – a temple in Bali. Type it into the search function of Instagram and see which results you will get in “Top” section.
What do you see? The same shot with the same angles. And most of the time a girl with long (blonde) hair – sometimes even in the same pose (feeding the fish) and even the same dress. All of these photos look as if the girl was on her own – if you go into the “recent” section, you can see that the place is actually swamped with tourists, all trying to line up for the same picture.
Why do people travel to take the very same pictures? Do we even need to travel if we can “see” these places from our sofa?
If you want to see something crazy, visit Sai Wan Swimming Shed in Hong Kong during a weekend (I wrote about it in my post about the most “Instagrammable” places in Hong Kong) or Hallstatt in Austria (throughout the year). People line up for hours just to take the very same shot.
I do have to say that Instagram helped me discover locations I probably would not have found anywhere else. Furthermore, I also found photographers introducing me to beautiful locations. The craziness leads to photographers arriving at the locations as early as 4 am to secure a spot for a nice picture – but very often even then the place is already full of Instagrammers. I have to admit, I am waking up early too… The reality if you run online businesses is that to some extent it is part of the game.
But very often, I visited the photographed places and was really underwhelmed. A lot of the photos we see on Instagram are heavily edited, colours are changed, perspectives adjusted. (I am not even talking about the amount of effort put into make-up and outfits of the “models”.) And because of the crowds it is actually not fun at all to be there and enjoy the moment – my major motivation of travelling.
When following fashion Instagrammers the pattern seems to repeat as well: during fashion week they all posed at the same shows, wearing almost identical outfits by the same brands. Have we become used to mainstream? Are we not looking for unique experiences and things anymore?
Maybe it is the same effect as with the famous sights – I was never really excited about the Eiffel Tower, the Atomium or the Colosseum. They are impressive, however, I enjoy exploring places off-the-beaten paths. It has become a challenge to escape the tourist crowds but there are still beautiful undiscovered places.
The Instagram-craziness has become so bad that residents of the “Monster Mansion” in Hong Kong have repeatedly complained about the crowds taking pictures of their home. Hallstatt has decided to limit the amount of daily visitors because it has just become unbearable to handle for the locals. It is always a slippery path: on the one hand, places like Hallstatt heavily depend on tourism but on the other they are still the home of the locals. And this should be respected.
It seems that all us millennials do is imitating others – their travels, their style, their looks, the cafés and restaurants we visit. And we share our lives using filters, photoshop or lightroom (and some people even crazy apps like Facetune changing their entire experience). We are a generation who claims to be individualistic. But does our behavior reflect that?
People keep saying to me that I am lucky that I lived in photogenic cities like Vienna or Hong Kong. However, I do not think that you need to travel for great pictures or content. Explore what is around you. I think our aim should be to find amazing photo locations ourselves not just be on a pilgrimage to take the same picture over and over. I am no photographer by training but I am trying to train my eye to see interesting things. It definitely taught me to pay attention.
And, most importantly, I learned to appreciate the moment. When everyone goes crazy around me, I try to take it all in. If I feel like it, I take a picture but I do not do it for the sake of proving that I have been to the coolest spot ever.
With these thoughts, I am sending you off into your week. What are your thoughts about this? Let me know, I love to discuss!