Geographies of Tourist Photography Choreographies and Performances · Jonas Larsen

Geographies of Tourist Photography Choreographies and Performances
· Jonas Larsen (2006)

The thrust of Larsen’s work is that of how the tourist uses photography, but not only as a passive observer but active participant. He argues that tourism promotes an idealised and mythical realm that ‘sells’ a place that is then ‘consumed’ by the viewer (tourist) who later in turn produces there own set of images of the particular place, with family members via a kind of embodied performance.

Much of this activity is habitual and non-reflexive, argues Larsen and to that end produces only a sort of replica of experience had by other people in the same place or as dictated by the market forces of tourism. Larsen argues that tourist industry choreographs imagery in order to promote a ‘myth of a place’. My sense that this is the way that marketing and photography work in general, perhaps with products promoting an experience which is based in a mythical idea also. This is perhaps an idea that is not usually attained, although it is promised.

Sontage, who was one of the first to identify and talk about the phenomena of tourist photography uses the phrase ‘society of spectacles’ whereby ‘reality becomes touristic’ (Larsen, cited in Sontag, 1977.) This is reminiscent of Debord’s society of the spectacle whereby society navigates communication and experience via an image spectacle thus removing the individual from their actual direct experience and separating individuals from each other. 

Larson’s paper is concerned to explore the relationship between tourists, places, images and cameras in the context of saying that, although the typical tourist photographer will end up with nothing other than clichéd images, in many cases, to the person taking the photographs these images have value as they represent a certain achievement.  He refers to the act of tourist photography as ‘performance photography’ (Larsen, 2006.)


Larson, J.Geographies of Tourist photography: photography Choreographies and performance (2006) Falkheimer and Jansson [online] [accessed, March 2020]

Sontag, S. (1977) Jonas Larsen: Geographies of Tourist photography: photography Choreographies and performance (2006) Falkheimer and Jansson [online] [accessed, March 2020]

Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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