We all love Instagram, and its a great space to showcase our fabulous travels. But is the search to be in one of the popular Instagramable places ruining the travel experience for everyone else?
Picture this: A gorgeous autumnal morning in Paris. A slow walk getting lost in Montmartre. And then I happen upon something familiar, a very picturesque pink and green corner cafe. Then it hits me, I know it from countless photos online, most especially on Instagram. I can’t help but want to take a snap or two, especially as I am walking by. It also looks like a nice place to sit for a few minutes over coffee and rest my feet after a morning’s walk. Before I enter I decide to take a photo of a table and chair, as for many years I have photographed such things. As I go to take my photo suddenly a girl sits, not to drink a coffee or get anything to eat but to get the “Girl in the Cafe” photo taken by amateur photographer, her boyfriend. Looking around there are a few of those. I wait a few minutes she finally moves and before I can take my photo Girl #2 slides in for her own impromptu photo op. I walk around and go to take another angle of the cafe when two friends start their own photo shoot in that area. Suddenly it appears that a small crowd has formed at the cafe to take photos of themselves and it all looks quite ridiculous. I’ll just go inside then and have a cup of coffee. As I am about to enter the cafe the owner comes out annoyed and in a stern and very clear English tells everyone to stop taking photos unless they intend on actually sitting down to order something. The chairs were for her customers after all and they were all blocking access. They were bothering the paying customers. To which an American Millennial instead of just apologising and moving on, instead countered with something along the lines that their photos were what brought her business and she should actually WANT them all to take photos. The lady proprietor replied with: All it brings me is more bothersome people taking photos and no business!
The cafe owner makes a valid point. Instagram was bringing more problems than customers. Not to mention it was a hassle for those just wanting to sit and have a drink at the cafe. What was once a quiet street was now a tourist stop bringing with it noisy crowds and blocking streets. It was almost surreal, the cafe was like a movie star. In a couple of years the cafe had gone from a pretty place in Montmartre to the subject of Instagram paparazzi.
And so it is in many popular places. Have you tried crossing the Rialto bridge in Venice or Ponte Vecchio in Florence? It is like a locus, tourists descend, cluttering the small spaces to take endless photos, pushing and shoving. Is anyone even looking at the view with the naked eye or is it all through the smartphone? Is anyone enjoying the moment? Is it romantic only if its on Instagram? This scene repeats itself in front of every major tourist attraction on the travel radar across the world. Not to mention property is getting destroyed, statues are being broken, all by tourist photographers in their dire need to get THE shot for their personal Instagram.
Of course I understand the desire of Insta-fame, I love Instagram too. But its the way everyone is going about doing it that is ruining it. We have all become selfish in our need to be photographically fabulous that we have run locals away from their every day routines, crowded cafes with egocentric “photo shoots” and have stopped actually admiring the places we are traveling to all so that we can post a trendy shot on our feeds. Next time you are photographing take a moment to regard the surroundings and take into account the situation and place you are in. At the end of the day it is more important to create memories of your travel experiences than it is to post them. Because without stories to tell the photo will have no value.