What the meaning of travel is and what one seeks from a trip are as subjective as questions can get. But regardless of what one’s intentions are, how one’s pictures of trips are perceived says a lot about a person. As tourists, we have a responsibility to respect and be aware of the places we travel to.
When we visit historical places, we should always keep in mind where we are when we behave. Early last year, the Auschwitz Museum had to tweet urging tourists to not pose for photos joyfully on its train tracks because it is disrespectful to the more than one million people who were killed there.
Similarly, it is disheartening to see people travel to places of great cultural significance only to reduce the locations to mere backdrops for funky pictures. Of course people have a right to celebrate these places in their own way, but important cultural works were not designed to be selfie backgrounds. Places of worship, graveyards and hospitals are also places where if photography isn’t already banned is best avoided.
Animals are heavily exploited by the tourism industry and regardless of how adorable it looks, taking pictures with animals only fills the purses of those that exploit them. We can pet them at best and take pictures of them but taking pictures with them isn’t as fun for the animals as it is for us. Similarly taking pictures with disadvantaged local children in tourist sites such as Cox’s Bazar only exploits the locals.
There is also the phenomenon of disrespecting the “no photography” rules. Many places prohibit videos and pictures because uploading the material online may discourage other visitors from making the trip, thus hurting their business. Yet, it is not uncommon to find videos and pictures from tourists of these places surfacing online.
There is absolutely no crime in taking pictures casually — it’s fun, it creates memories for us to look back on and can be an enjoyable activity on it’s own. However we can always take pictures by being respectful of the people and places around us, by being mindul of where we are and remember that we don’t always have the right to photograph everything. Above all, our pictures always say a lot more about us ourselves than the places in it.
Mrittika Anan Rahman is a daydreamer trying hard not to run into things while walking. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org