Just What Is 'Travel Photography'?

This year’s Travel Photographer Society (TPS) competition culminated in a beautiful exhibition of interesting and unique work from travel photographers all over the world in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Surrounding the exhibition, TPS also held a series of talks by prominent travel photographers. In his standout presentation and follow-up blog post, Pics of Asia’s Etienne Bossot questions us deeply about the ethics surrounding travel photography and just what constitutes the genre.

Throughout the engaging 15 or so minutes of his talk, Etienne takes us on a journey through what it means to make travel photographs and raises some valid points about the crossover of genres that are redefining travel photography. He also questions some of the world's biggest travel photography competitions and the role they play in shaping what people consider to be travel photography.

Taking a look at social media, he also questions why people take the photographs they do and asks you to question if you're looking for success as defined by Facebook likes and not  by authenticity in your work.

So, just what is it that makes travel photography? What separates it from fine art and commercial work? What is authenticity? Does it matter? When you travel, are you doing it to create images or to have a unique experience that you can bring home?

The full blog post can be found on Pics of Asia and on the TPS competition site. For more from Etienne, check out his great collection of blog posts and tutorials on travel photography and swing by his gallery in Hoi An, Vietnam, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Lead image used with permission of Tony Allison.
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3 Comments

Anonymous's picture

I enjoyed it a lot but it doesn't address the fact that, in years past, a travel photographer showed you unique things you'd never heard of before much less seen. It would be easy to think he's advocating to travel around the world, photographing people of various cultures who dress like us, have the same kinds of jobs as us, and are walking around checking their smart phones for messages.
In my opinion, a large part of the problem is the merging of cultures. There're fewer interesting subjects to shoot.
There is no solution.
I hope someone can show me how I'm wrong.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Can someone give me the highlights from the video as I'd probably fall asleep listening to it.

Anonymous's picture

It's actually very watchable and I'm a huge critic of boring videos. Anyway...

Most "Travel" photography is staged, based on the photographer's preconception of what an area and it's people look like and the things they do. These get repeated and imitated over and over. Rather, we should record, in a creative and original manner, the reality of these places and people. Near the end, he talks about representing the "travel" aspect of travel photography but I didn't really understand what he meant by that. Maybe I was falling asleep! ;-)