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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Crang, M. Picturing Practices: Research through the Tourist Gaze. Progress in Human Geography. 1997;21:359-374.

Author(s) from Durham


Geographers have shown the centrality of representations of landscape to understanding social geographies. This article suggests that so far more attention has been paid to the representations than the practices that create these representations. Using the example of popular photography, this article suggests that such a focus on representations misses some important processes and reproduces some social ideologies. First, perhaps surprisingly, focusing on the practices of photography serves to reinstate the corporeality of experience often claimed to be lost in visual theory. Secondly, this embodied experience serves to highlight the mediation of visual worlds through technologies and epistemologies. Thirdly, it is suggested studying practices displaces some of the ways geography has posited an `authentic' popular experience against its commodified forms. These ideas are pursued with reference to popular and principally tourist photography. In total it is suggested that such an approach focuses attention on the times and spaces of tourist experience in novel ways. The article insists on the subtle forms of time involved in touristic practices-through the idea of future perfect experience. It also suggests the spatialization of time through the juxtaposition of tourist spaces through pictorial technology. In order to reconcile these developments, the article further suggests that we need to look at not the visual perception of sights but their embodied, technological proprioception; and, to escape the authentic/commodified trap, we must think through a displaced idea of experience not through presence. Finally, it is suggested that this may be important in thinking through appropriate research strategies for mediated experience.

Department of Geography