The Tourist’s Totem

Travel Special

Our ethics, our epistemology, our whole philosophy of art, should be reviewed in light of the bulimic amount of images that is produced today.Joan Fontcuberta

300 million photographs are uploaded to Facebook everyday. That's just over 5,787 pictures per second. In a single day, according to curator Joachim Schmidt, we are now capable of producing more photographs we could have done over the course of the entire 19th century. 

Schmidt points to the technology of image-making as photography’s entry-point into our vernacular communication. “All that [technical] knowledge was built into the machine itself so the camera became intelligent, and any idiot was able to take a photograph,” says Schmidt. “Now, you don't need to know anything about photography, but you can still take a pretty good photograph, at least in technical terms.” And as we point and shoot, the point of photography may have changed, he adds. “The whirlwind of images no longer aims to represent reality, but rather has become part of reality itself.”

With a camera stuck to every phone, photography's incorporation into the daily routines of a large part of the world's population now directly affects our behavior. We pause to pose, employing the image as a witness, in Fontcuberta’s terms, to the fact that "I was there.” A flip through Schmidt’s collection of hundreds of tourists’ self-portraits with the Mona Lisa reveals photographers who seem to have totally forgotten the old photographer’s goal to capture that decisive moment or compose a beautiful image. Instead, selfies are testimonials, image-witnesses of a vacation, to be published on Facebook, Flickr or Twitter.

With this indigestible production of images, photographer Corrine Vionnet has made something unexpected. She builds exceptional impressionistic pieces from self-published public online archives of tourist’s images. The photos that Vionnet selects feature totems of worldwide tourism, the most photographed monuments, the places where you can’t not take a picture, and she melts these images into the pieces called Photo Opportunities (pictured above). A rough and imperfect accumulation of images, an anodyne repetition, the Photo Opportunities series pays ethereal homage to the thousands of souls who immortalize a heartbeat at every stop of the journey.


Corinne Vionnet is a visual artist based in Switzerland. Her work has been exhibited at Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona; Les Rencontres d'Arles, France; Fotomuseum, Antwerp, Belgium; La Maison Européenne de la photographie, Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; Musée d'Art de Sion, Switzerland; Chelsea Art Museum, New York; the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. It has also featured in numerous publications and press, including Beaux-Arts magazine, Telegraph, Le Monde, Les Lettres et Les Arts, Huffington Post, Images Magazine, PDN, The British Journal of Photography, Yvi, as well as a TV broadcast from Deutsche Welle. In January 2013, she was Guest Speaker at the World Economic Forum, in Davos.


Laia Abril

Photo Editor - COLORS Magazine