Earlier this week, we discussed the challenge of going on a photo tour, especially if you’re not a professional photographer. But now, I’d like to visit the flip side of that travel issue: visiting popular places and taking the easiest, most predictable shot possible.
Today it seems that for every popular and iconic landmark or must-see destination anywhere in the world, there is a corresponding must-take photo. And given the ubiquity of social media, that means that we spend a lot of time documenting our lives and our travels. What better way to prove that we are having a great time than by striking the now-practically-mandatory pose for each well-known spot on the map that we travel to?
According to those who study such things, here are some of the most cliché travel photos that we take:
- Positioning yourself in proper perspective so that it looks like you’re kissing the Great Sphinx of Giza
- Walking like an Egyptian next to the pyramids in Egypt
- Positioning yourself so it looks like you’re leaning on or holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Positioning yourself so it looks like you’re pinching the top of the Taj Mahal in India (or the Eiffel Tower in France or the Washington Monument — take your pick)
- Posing like the Statue of Liberty in New York under the real Statue of Liberty, wearing one of those pointy star, foam hats (or posing like any statue anywhere, really)
- Walking across Abbey Road in England, à la the Beatles as shown on the cover of their album of the same name
- Standing next to a royal guard at Buckingham Palace, making a funny face while the guard remains stern and focused
- Striking a Rocky pose next to the Rocky Balboa statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and striking the same pose at the top of the museum’s “Rocky Steps”
- Striking a Christ the Redeemer pose before the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil
- Any “selfie,” anywhere
The “selfie” itself is a relatively new concept in cliché travel photos. It’s defined as the point at which travelers reject other people’s kind offers to take photos of them in favor of capturing the shots awkwardly themselves, by holding an iPhone out in front of their faces. Some claim it has brought into being a whole new realm of unoriginality, since it seems to make the case that you haven’t seen something famous until you’ve posed for a photo with your head blocking half of it.
I think cliché travel photos might be highly underrated, however. It seems to me that their value lies in what they tell us about ourselves and what’s important to us. Posing so that it looks like a Parisian fountain is squirting out of your mouth may mean you’re a romantic with a fondness for Old World cities. Or if you have shots of yourself holding up a series of shed elk, moose, or deer antlers next to your own head, it could be that you’re a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys nature travels.
I have my own brand of cliché selfie: I take photos of my feet in my hiking boots wherever I go. I’ve had the same hiking boots for about a decade now, so I have pictures of this particular footwear treading on various terrains all over the world. When I started taking these types of photos, I don’t know what I thought I would eventually do with all of them. I’m glad I could use a couple of them here.
Have you ever indulged in a cliché travel photo? If so, where was it, and what were you doing in it? Was it just a momentary joke, or has it become a treasured memory?
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,