Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to be a bad tourist

Here are a series of photos I took of some tourists and a young Burmese girl near Amarapura in Burma earlier this month. This is why when I travel, I try to only take pictures of food.

I'll just straighten your hair so you look a little more "ethnic."

Hold those necklaces up high, girly, I might buy one when we're done with this!

The Burmese sellers watch with resignation during another hair styling, and another tourist joins in.

And then there were four...

If only they would all buy a necklace, this girl could go home for the day. But they didn't.

This was the point where I completely lost my shit

And started jamming my camera in the tourists' faces and taking pictures of them.

Especially the first woman who was treating that poor girl like an animal in the zoo.

As it turns out...

...she didn't like being treated that way, either.

47 comments:

  1. And this is one of the (many) reasons you're awesome.

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  2. This photo essay deserves wide, wide circulation. So great.

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  3. Oh my god, I love you. Righteous response.

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  4. red faced ambiguousNovember 23, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    Great Social Commentary about inconsiderate technophiles.

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  5. Brilliant! Great stuff! Love it, absolutely love it.

    Thank you for that.

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  6. You should have re- arranged her hair too ;)

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  7. Love you, Lina. DPs with respect and honour forever.

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  8. Incredible! I worked for an NGO in the Philippines and this sort of shit happened all the time - so frustrating, but you took a great approach!

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  9. You are awesome, Lina! And, I'm sure that girl thinks so too!

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  10. Brilliant. I work for an NGO and I have to do some promotional work, but I ALWAYS ask first! This is totally improper. Great job!

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  11. You suffer from Open Mouth Insert Foot SyndromeNovember 24, 2011 at 3:29 AM

    These tourists were NOT Korean. If you're not sure DON'T infer.

    What they did was not right, but for your pompous ass to assume race and put in (I think) as a cover your ass is disgusting.

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  12. The tour guide who was working there watching this exchange told me they were Korean.

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  13. Korean or otherwise, tourists from that area of the world have a terrible propensity to 'swarm' and invade other people's space. As a tour leader I constantly have to hold back people from photographing things they shouldn't and generally be inconsiderate tools.

    Lina - great work!

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  14. Good Work jewberg ! x

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  15. Awesome response.... 100 heartfelt pats on the back and public kudos for letting them have it right back in the face!!!

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  16. BTW - I haven't checked in for awhile, but great blog. Have had you bookmarked for months now and check in every now and again. Keep up the good work!!!

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  18. Great post!I hate it when I see tourists doing this, and I very rarely photograph people when travelling as it just feels too intrusive. Another thing I hate is when I see tourists taking pictures of people praying in Churches or Temples - How would they feel if somebody photographed their most vulnerable and intimate moments??!

    Good on you for turning the tables on them!

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  19. Wow. I'm always apprehensive about taking photos of people like they're a theme park attraction and only with permission and only if it's a natural photo.

    But jeez, fixing her hair and posing her for their cameras? Amazing.

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  20. Awesome!!! Good for you to intervene and give it back to them!

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  21. so did you buy any necklaces?

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  22. good to make people realize on what they do!

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  23. Love it well done. I hope you are going to share more about your trip - booked for next year

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  24. Great post. I was totally amused watching a similar swarm over sunbathing, bikini-clad Australian girls at a city park in Brisbane last year. Especially since the girls were asleep (or at least acted like it) the whole time! I guess wherever the large camera toting tourists were from, they didn't have much experience with barely clothed women laying out on the grass in a park ...

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  25. I think you behaved like an ass. If the girl didn't want her picture taken she could have just walked away. What you did was far worse than than the tourists yet you act like you've done the world a favour. You didn't.

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  26. "If the girl didn't want her picture taken she could have just walked away." A presumptuous statement coming from someone who has not walked in the girl's shoes. Perhaps from an educated (and I'm just guessing here) Westerner from a background and culture that has equipped him or her to deal with people as if his or her equal. If she doesn't walk away can we assume she's down with what's going on? Not necessarily.

    (This is the same sort of dumb comment you hear from tourists who wear bikini tops to Thai temples and then say "If the Thais didn't like it they would tell me.")

    I see your action as less "protecting" the girl than pointing out to the tourists that their behavior is unacceptable under any circumstances, which it is.

    And who cares if they are or are not Korean? The behavior is despicable -- esPEcially the touching, and on the head no less. Good on you for turning the tables.

    Runaway Brit -- sorry, but you're wrong to label photographing at temples etc as generally impolite. Many worshippers/participants welcome it. What's wrong is doing it -- or any sort of photography that invades a certain personal perimenter -- without asking permission first. Note your comment that you rarely photograph people when you travel because it "feels" too intrusive. Ie. it feels intrusive to *you*. If you ask you'll find that it does not necessarily feel that way to all of your potential subjects. If you see a photographer shooting a person you needn't necessarily assume he/she is an insensitive jack#ass for doing so.

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  27. It's like that word you can only say in French - douche? If she tried rearranging someone's hair in Korea she'd get her face 'rearranged'. Nice work!

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  28. @robyn you call anons statement presumptuous but also say we can't necessarily assume she's down with what's going on. On that basis, you're the presumptuous one for assuming she wasn't down with it and the tourists actions were wrong. Get off your high horse.

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  29. @liam: maybe it's cuz the tourists from "that area of the world" learned from the Western tourists way back when they invaded "that" area and behaved similarly to these "exotic" humans.

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  30. You acted totally appropriately. These tourists had the upper hand in their relationship with this girl, she was hoping they'd give her money before they walked away. They didn't realize how completely inappropriate their behaviour was. Hopefully your actions made them realise it.

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  31. Well done taking photos of those tourists. That's just ridiculous!!

    Btw, is it relevant if they were Korean or not? I liked everything in this article apart from the presumption of nationality, as it may incite a racial debate. I work on a cruise ship so I see asshole tourists in every size and color.

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  32. What a self righteous ignoramus you are Lina. You obviously believe you personally have no impact on the cultures you are travelling in. Your response shows me you are obviously American and consider your values above all others. The girl in the photo was selling necklaces to tourists, not some random girl being harassed. I bet she didn't give a damn about being photoed and was only hoping to make sale and make some money to help feed her family, well done I bet she didn't sell a thing.

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  33. @anonymous - Lina notes above that she watched the tourists wave off the woman selling necklaces, not intending or making a move to buy any. As she said, that's what set her off in going down to them and taking photos for their own special close up. I'm not sure how you can infer from this photoessay that Lina holds her values above all others; I think it's common courtesy not to stick a camera in someone's face so rudely. That's not a value judgement, just basic manners. You're right, the woman might not have minded the photos were she to make a sale or two (or three - let's be honest it was quite a tour group) but as Lina makes clear that wasn't happening.

    Either way, I've seen the same on my travels, both in Myanmar and in Laos where the monks were doing alms in Luang Prabang. I feel embarrassed to be a traveler myself when I watch someone throw a camera in someone's face, as though they were in a zoo.

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  34. I have to say, while I agree that asshole tourists come in every size, shape, race, age and nationality, I lived in China for sometime and as a foreigner going about my daily working life, I often caught Chinese people whipping their camera phones out to take a picture of the Lao wai without asking and much in the same literal 'in yer face' way. I also found that my idea of personal space was not the same as theirs and often people invaded it by standing too close or even touching me. I think that in some Asian cultures, but not all thus kind of beaviour is considered to be fine and certainly on my travels in places like Laos or Cambodia I have met Chinese tourists doing exactly this sort of thing. Sometimes it is clear it is just a case of being their cultural norm and sometimes it is a case of just being downright disrespectful & superior.

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  35. Funny stuff. Sometimes, however, the insensitivity can be taken quite seriously. A Japanese tourist in Guatemala touched a woman holding a child years ago. She didn't walk away, she flew into a rage. A crowd came quickly and the culturally ignorant photographer was killed along with the tour bus driver who tried to stop it all. Yikes.

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  36. Let's not go all cultural relativist. As any guidebook to an SE Asian country will advise: don't touch people on the head. For Buddhists (and maybe the girl wasn't Buddhist, but how are we, or the camera-happy tourists to know) it's a no-no. So right off the bat, rudeness is happening here..
    On a more general level, Legal Nomads is right. Going up to someone and sticking a camera in their face is rude. Period.
    Madelaine, I lived in China too and I know the sort of behavior you're talking about. But I never had a Chinese person get that close to me with a camera, let alone reach out to rearrange my hair. Needless to say if they had there would have been some violence. And you are coming from a position of power that this girl will never probably never own. To compare your position to hers is reaching.
    As for those who say "well it's OK if she thought she might sell some necklaces" ... people "consent" to all sorts of things being done to them when they don't feel they have much choice (or when they are desparate to make a living). Does that necessarily make the things that are done to them -- and the doers who do it -- OK?

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  37. way to go! those tourists, esp the girl was rude. sure, some Asians are tacitile but with her reaching out to 're-arrange' her pose was just plain rude.

    i rarely take photos of people when I travel, i use the cam just for the scenery and of course, food. for some reason i feel shy about taking photos of people. perhaps because i'd feel uncomfortable if its the other way around.

    Lui of Pinaywifespeaks

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  38. LOL. You are too, too, too awesome.

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  39. Right on! This is how tourists behave on safari, and it's about totally dehumanizing the subject (it's happened to me... in Japan, mostly.)

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  40. Nice one! :D I hate when people do that what the other tourists did.. That is why I also take mostly pictures of food, trees and other fellow tourists :)

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