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Are Pictures Still Worth 1000 Words?

Taylor Barry

Posted on June 13, 2019 15:53

1 user

Though some images will always be controversial, it is more important to understand the twisted relationship we now have with technology, tourism, and our reality.

The showrunner of HBO’s latest hit miniseries, Chernobyl, released a statement advocating Instagram users against selfies in the Exclusion Zone after seeing pictures drifting through the internet. And it’s true; tourists are taking posed pictures. However, there is more to unpack than simply calling these disrespectful images.

While there has been a 40% uptick in tourism since the show’s release, it is irresponsible to blame the show as a cause of these images. The Exclusion Zone has been open for regulated tourism for years now with many images circulating from the last decade. Though some images will always be controversial, it is more important to understand the twisted relationship we now have with technology, tourism, and our reality.

At its core, it can be argued the Instagram selfie is less about the subject’s surroundings but the focus on the person in that spot and time; a visual diary that has become cultural canon. With the increasing importance placed on ‘Instagram influencers’ these images are the natural progression of what is deemed normal in sharing a part of one’s life.

It extends far beyond sites of disaster, but posing for 30 pictures in front of the Trevi Fountain in hopes of finding one perfect shot doesn’t carry the same excitable controversy.  And this isn’t to disparage the platform as a whole. If pictures are still worth 1000 words then those taken are beautiful reminders of the places one has been. One of the Chernobyl images circulating is of a Ukrainian born girl that conveniently has been shared without her heartfelt caption of what Chernobyl means to her, her family, and Ukrainian identity.

But in our clickable culture we are so inundated with media that it becomes numbing as a whole. What stands out anymore, what separates fads from art and insensitivity from appreciation?  I recently came back from Italy where my new favorite game became block the camera.  The way certain tourists interacted with their environment was appalling. My breaking point arrived 2.5 days in as a woman standing in front of me at St. Peter’s Basilica was taking a selfie with Michelangelo’s Pietá with an iPad larger than my head.  An image of pure suffering as Mary cradles the limp, lifeless body of her son that left zero impact on half the crowd.   

And maybe that couple with the selfie stick felt the same way, but with such an emphasis on the click of a camera, it is hard to appreciate the present moment. However, there have been recent crackdowns on sightseer behavior with Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, enforcing the first all-encompassing law defining fineable offenses in densely touristy areas with other cities following suit.

But with such an ingrained societal norm, it requires redefining the relationship between tourist and surroundings. We’re so readily connected through social media it is natural to have a certain blasé when mindlessly scrolling through a newsfeed. It’s not the picture; it’s how we respond to each image in understanding cultural significance with sensitivity.

Taylor Barry

Posted on June 13, 2019 15:53

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Source: NME

"Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed" A visitor takes a photo at Chernobyl A number of Instagram...

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