October 13, 2013

"Back at the market, I muse how the photos that I take invariably bring out what I think of as local and therefore interesting."

"You're not likely to find me taking a picture of the Polish guy who was standing on the street with hand extended asking for a few coins. Or of the stores along the main drag -- they have a ubiquitous face to them that could appear anywhere at all: places of cheap clothing, a few tattoo parlors, many barbers and butchers too. I like walking up one, peering into another, but my camera waits."

Weekending somewhere obscure in Ireland, Nina reveals her approach to censorship by photographic framing.

And this says something about why I don't — like Nina — put great effort into traveling to distant places. If I were in that Irish market with my camera, I would frame the discontinuities and weird juxtapositions. I'd be drawn to what would disappoint the traveler who's looking for the old world where things are authentic and true to that particular locality.

Nina's phrase is "local and therefore interesting," but what would seem interesting to me would be the inevitable intrusions of the non-local, the very things that spoil the trip for those who formed their  idea of what they would find if they expend great effort going somewhere from photographs framed as Nina has done.

There are many photographs at the link. It's all very romantic and beautiful in the photographs. Enjoy them. They are probably more enjoyable than taking the trip yourself. But for Nina, I believe that the trip is enjoyable in large part because she is searching for photographs like that, and it's a difficult search that requires a thought and skill. It's exciting and interesting because of the effort it takes to exclude what would not be pleasant to see. I suspect that just outside each frame is something jarring, like a Nike T-shirt or a Miley Cyrus magazine cover.

Think about that before you succumb to the fantasy that travel will be beautiful. These photographs are the lure but also the set-up for disappointment when you see that it's not like that at all, even if it is some non-touristy spot like Ballina by the Lough Derg or Limerick or wherever Nina has alighted.

26 comments:

betamax3000 said...

Re: "I'd be drawn to what would disappoint the traveler who's looking for the old world where things are authentic and true to that particular locality."

Naked Bob Dylan Robot Says:

The Quest to Return to Authenticity Transcends the Geographical: We Travel to Experience the Sensation of Spiritual Nostalgia Through Other Means, Whether it Is the Past of a Strange Land or Even Ourselves. This, Of Course, Often Results in the Disappointed Traveler:

"So now I'm going back again
I got to get her somehow
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now"

Also: See "Traveling Wilburys."

betamax3000 said...

The name "Nina" Alludes to the Previous Post on Alternative Spellings of Names.

Nina = Nena

Nena = 99 Luftballons

Carol said...

Now you sound like my parent, who said she did not care to travel because it never looked like the post card.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Nena = 99 Luftballons

"Hast Du etwas Zeit für Mick" is a good retort if you can get it.

El Pollo Raylan said...

@beta: Comic juxtaposition hint

Ann Althouse said...

"The name "Nina" Alludes to the Previous Post on Alternative Spellings of Names."

Don't forget Neenah, Wisconsin.

Gordon said...

"You chose a good time to come," said the shop girl, in a picturesque Irish village. "We've stopped being an amusement park for the tourists, and the locals are starting to come out again."

She herself was a Bulgarian artist, by way of having grown up in London. She had a very interesting perspective on the local culture.

Ann Althouse said...

"Now you sound like my parent, who said she did not care to travel because it never looked like the post card."

But that is NOT what I said, though I did refer to people like that.

I am drawn to "the discontinuities and weird juxtapositions," I said.

I'm not interested in your mom's/dad's bullshit postcards.

I can find the discontinuities and weird juxtapositions for my photographs in America, going in my own car. I object to hemorrhaging money and to be jammed into a metal tube with a lot of other people.

I'm interested in writing and photography, and I have my subject matter in America.

Last summer, we went to Nebraska.

Ann Althouse said...

As the next post indicates, the biggest problem traveling outside of America is the American music.

rhhardin said...

Gravel broadens the mind.

Demosthenes

paminwi said...

We don't travel to take pictures so we have something pretty to show people when we get home. If you haven't been there yourself it is really hard to get people to be interested in your travels.

We love history and there are parts of the world that give us history that you just can't find in the US. Examples for me recently the Wailing Wall, the Sea of Galilee, the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings.

We have visited 40 of our 50 United States so we do have a few more to vist. But travel brings us joy especially since health issues have made us focus on things that bring us joy in a more focused way.

But, each to their own.

Ann Althouse said...

"We don't travel to take pictures so we have something pretty to show people when we get home. If you haven't been there yourself it is really hard to get people to be interested in your travels."

Some people are interested in photography.

Ann Althouse said...

There are lots of photographs of places I want to look at and have less than zero interest in traveling to (like a war zone for example).

The photographer is taking on the burdens of travel and showing us things we don't otherwise see. And it's a process of framing, which is an art and it gives a subjective perspective to something that we wouldn't have if we went there.

There's real life too, and it's good to have more than just art, but don't devalue art.

Obviously, many photographs have little art, and most people's travel photographs are boring... whether you're interested in the place or not.

William said...

Much as the Aztecs never discovered a practical use for the wheel, the Irish in their native land never mastered the technology of frying potatoes. Is there any worse way of preparing a potato than by boiling it?

nina said...

Ann, I know what you're trying to say, but you're not right in portraying what it is that I do. I said I don't photograph certain things. That isn't to say that I don't recognize them. I photograph that, which I believe is actually very real for people who live in the places I visit. This is the thing that you are missing -- people love their home towns/villages/surroundings as much as you love yours. I want to suggest some reasons why this may be so. Posting photographs that allow the reader to see the downsides is like feeding the idea that no place is as beautiful as your own backyard. It's not so. People's backyards are equally beautiful.

Ann Althouse said...

"This is the thing that you are missing -- people love their home towns/villages/surroundings as much as you love yours."

I don't see how I'm missing that. I assume that, but what does that have to do with my presence as an outsider? I'm only saying that I would not be drawn to that sentiment unless I knew people there who wanted to know me. You are drawn to show an aspect of a place and it is something that makes you feel good. I would end upon looking at things that felt weird or incongruous, because that is my artistic sensibility. I'd really experience the alienation. Nothing against the people who do live there.

You are visually editing to make the place more like some ideal of itself. I think my eye would go toward something else. I would frame a picture that appealed to my taste too, but I think my artistic sensibility would lead me into less pleasure in traveling.

Ann Althouse said...

I should be clear that I wasn't saying I would look for what would disappoint travelers, but the things that would interest me artistically and draw my eye as a photographer are not the kinds of things that would make one want to travel very far.

But I could be wrong. I have never traveled out of the US with a digital camera or during the period when I have been blogging. Maybe I could find a way that would feel good to me.

nina said...

Do you post without any regard to how it is perceived? I bet you don't! Neither do I.

When you travel, messing with people's worlds is far more dangerous than when you do it back home. I can't tell you how many times reading people's commentary on Poland over the years has made me sad. Almost always, it seems so superficial and onesided.

It's okay for someone who lives there to comment on the odd, but it's troublesome when an outsider does it. Without mention of the decent, the kind, the upside, it appears petty and incomplete.

What you say about Madison is fine -- you live there, you feel the place, it's your world. You can comment on it however you please. But to plunge into a whole different world and to show off how you picked out the weird and the misplaced -- no, I feel it's not up to me, the outsider, to make that call.

There is always an upside. I choose to write about that.

Ann Althouse said...

But that's my point, Nina: against travel.

John Constantius said...

Last summer, we went to Nebraska.

Nebraska! No wonder you hate travel.

Travel is beautiful, but not the way you approach it. Presumably this is why you don't like it.

Bex said...

Wow, so much negativity toward Nina who probably produces one of the most beautiful and well-loved blogs in all of blogdom. My vote is with Nina, and this blog of yours will be on my visiting list again. There was no need for all that criticism, as if your way is the right way (which it isn't). Have a great life stateside!

Ann Althouse said...

@Bex

I think you're missing the issue under discussion. Try to read what I've written sympathetically and without reflexive aversion.

I suspect you won't, in which case, go back to the places that feel good to you. You are not my intended audience.

the jackal said...

When I last visited Ireland, I told a man I met at a pub that I'd be heading up to Limerick next. "Oh yeah," he says, "you wanna get stabbed?" Later, he gives me an example of the Limerick dialect: "Gimme all yer fucking money." Traveling is awesome.

You can have those pictures and great Irish music and meet great Irish people all in the same place. I've tried to simulate it by listening to (or even playing) the music and looking at the pictures and calling folks up on the phone, but it's not the same.

Maybe you don't think you'd get much out of it, but if it's not prohibitively expensive, maybe it's worth a try just to get commenters to stop harassing you about travel.

Ann Althouse said...

"Maybe you don't think you'd get much out of it, but if it's not prohibitively expensive, maybe it's worth a try just to get commenters to stop harassing you about travel."

Are they harassing me or am I harassing them.

The argument against travel is one of my big topics. I was trying to engage Nina in a dialogue about it. People like Bex see that as "so much negativity toward Nina," which (it seems obvious to me) is not the point at all.

I have a certain style of blogging which I've used consistently for 10 years. It's sometimes dispiriting not to be understood, but I know I'm writing in a way that will cause readers to react emotionally and see things they're afraid they're seeing or to get angry with me and never find their way back into the actual prose.

But it's my style, and it's not going to change.

And I have my topics and they're mine because I like them.

As for traveling somewhere distant as some kind of demonstration for those who object to what I'm saying.... well, I was paid $200 to eat an egg salad sandwich by readers who wanted me to do something I didn't want to do and blog about it.

To travel somewhere that I don't want to go, just for the blogging? First, all expenses would need to be paid, including for my bodyguard Meade. Then, more money would need to be added to pay me for the trouble of doing it.

So, for any kind of trip to Europe, readers would need to pony up something like $20,000.

mrs. e said...

“Think about that before you succumb to the fantasy that travel will be beautiful. These photographs are the lure but also the set-up for disappointment when you see that it's not like that at all”

Unless, you understand that there are upsides and "discontinuities and weird juxtapositions” wherever you travel – rural Dane County, Nebraska or Ireland. Nina says she sees both, but chooses to show the upside. Do you see both? Can you see both?

You often speak of exposing the ‘truth’ of a given situation – now reading that you’re choosing a purposeful "discontinuities and weird juxtapositions" POV, I have to question that.

JoyD said...

Thanks for the link to Nina's blog. I enjoy her photography and I agree with her philosophy. She seems a big-hearted person and I'm happy to share a part of my day with a part of hers, so I've bookmarked her blog. Oh, Althouse, I appreciate your photography, have for years, and I'm always open to a bit of snark whenever you're in the mood.