Millennial Travellers Paying for Proof 'They Were There' Sparks Asian Photography Boom

Millennial Travellers Paying for Proof 'They Were There' Sparks Asian Photography Boom

We've all tried — and sometimes failed miserably — to take the perfect selfie to show off our latest adventure. Some people are simply better at turning the camera on themselves. But millennials' passion for showing "they were there," wherever "there" may be, is proving to be a boon to Asian tourism and a burgeoning photography industry.

According to Bloomberg, young travelers in Asia are so focused on capturing the perfect images for their social media feeds, that many tourism companies across the region are changing the way they operate to accommodate this game of social one-upmanship. 

Instead of simply creating a dizzying array of ziplines where visitors can enjoy zooming above the canopy of Pule Payung, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for instance, the Kalibiru Tourism Village created scenic lookout platforms and hired photographers to help visitors capture the incredible vistas. The images are uploaded directly to the visitors' (a.k.a. paying customers') phones and, boom, they're ready to show off another grand adventure to their followers. 

Interestingly, the article quotes Tim Hartnoll, owner and executive chairman of the Bawah Island eco-resort in Indonesia, saying, “The new generation of wealthier tourists are looking for authenticity and transparency." This statement seems somewhat paradoxical to the notion of hiring photographers and building scenic lookouts to create a somewhat contrived adventure photo. It makes me think the business model will rapidly grow and then crash just as rapidly, as the "authenticity" of these moments is lost to commercialism. 

What do you think? Are sites such as the ones described in the article simply crass commercialism that will fail when the next big thing arrives? Or is this a valuable service that makes amazing images more accessible to everyone? Leave a comment below. 

[Lead image used with permission by Martin Criminale]

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Perhaps you should edit the first sentence to, "Most of us have tried..." I have never taken a selfie. Ever!!

Andrea Re Depaolini's picture

Don't you like to be in the elite? :)

I tried to join. They didn't want me. ;-)

Leigh Miller's picture

LMAO...awesome writeup and so true. Every single place I've travelled to had legions of tourists making sure they get the right selfie whether or not they are taking the picture themselves.

A couple of years ago my cousin sent me a link for a company in Asia that were photoshopping wedding couples into various locations for a fee.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

This is really cool! We have a lot of famous lookout like this in Oregon, no photographers but there's always people there lol. I'm glad they hired real photographers and not a machine

Motti Bembaron's picture

A quick thinking Russian bought a grounded private jet, fixed it to look luxurious and people rent it by the hour for photo sessions and selfies to show how successful they are. He is doing very well apparently.

I do not think the word pathetic is strong enough to describe it.

I've always been amazed at how many people like photos of themselves. I'm a very old man and there may be 40 pictures of me in existence. I want to shoot the attraction, not me in it.

I had good friends who went to Disney World in the film days and said they'd take lots of pictures for me since they were "really into pictures." They came back with about 300 shots of their family standing in front of this and that. To be fair, they had mastered posing and every expression was good. And they have family photos which are priceless since one of the parents later passed away. But 300 photos, back when every one had to be paid for twice (film + developing), just for one vacation?

Not sure why you're representing this idea so negatively... sounds like the tours and their attendees recognize the value in having a pro photographer around. In most photog forums, that would be considered a _good_ thing.

Instead of a participant feeling distracted taking cell phone shots that don't capture the moment, they can know there's a more experienced shooter to help. You can argue "sharing the moment" on social media is shallow, but a lot of people get further enjoyment out of their trip sharing moments. And it's the modern day version of a slideshow or sending postcards. There has been a photographer standing alongside amusement park rides, dinner cruises, etc., etc. since time immemorial. I'd rather help shoot a zipline or a safari.

So I'd say (1) be happy there's a type of photographer gig that may be growing (instead of all the ones that are shrinking...). And (2) if anyone wants to hire me to join a trans-continental tour, my rates are reasonable and for the right price I will be up at sunrise and make you look awesome. ;)

Brian Pernicone's picture

From a business and photography perspective, I think it's brilliant.

From the perspective of a photographer and someone who has traveled the world, I find it kind of disappointing to think people are more interested in showing off to their friends where they are than actually being present in those places and using their own eyes to find the beauty to create their own images. Scenic overlooks are great and present many easy opportunities for wonderful images. But there's so much more to see.

Doug Walkey's picture

On the other hand... what a great opportunity for aspiring photographers everywhere! This really isn't any different than a make up artist and costume designer setting the stage for a portrait. Nor any of the cosplay photos. just a switch in background. Vanity has been a huge market since time began (ask any printer) and photographers should be all over this.
As for the ethics of claiming you were somewhere you weren't... well people need to take responsibility for their own actions. I can't blame a talented retoucher for the subject's lies.