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Tourist photography, or I’m sorry I made that face; I was in a hurry

Recently, I went on a trip that included stops in Atlanta, DC, New York City, Boston, Niagara Falls, and Chicago. During this time, spanning more than three weeks, I did a terrible job of taking my own pictures. But that’s OK, since I estimate I was in at least a dozen strangers’ photographs.

Sometimes, in these pictures, I imagine I will go unnoticed. Nothing too noteworthy about a recent post-grad sipping coffee with sunglasses on and wet hair. At the Washington Monument, though, I sneered at a couple taking a perspective shot, trying to make their fingers meet at the tip and taking forever doing it. It was an accidental photobomb, my face permanently imprinted in their DC shot. As a fellow tourist, I had no right. My impatience is no excuse for getting in the way of other people’s memories.

Living in a tourist city such as New Orleans, one should become accustomed to it. Two years ago, I worked in the French Quarter. I would walk to the streetcar, where people would take pictures spanning the wooden seats and me with my head against the window, headphones in my ears. I’d step off at Canal and half-run to Jackson Square, perpetually 10 minutes late, running through pictures of Bourbon Street and tripping in the background of panoramas of Jackson Square. Sometimes, pictures would be taken specifically of me, the co-ed runner on the streetcar line or the reader on a bench by the Mississippi, taken in attempts to capture the milieu of the city.

An invasion of privacy? Possibly. An annoyance when one is in a hurry and has to stop for the group picture blocking the sidewalk? Definitely. But that’s the price we pay for living in a city that people like to visit. We become a part of the city itself, just as much a part of the landscape as the oak trees and wrought-iron balconies.

As New Orleanians, we should recognize this. The people are what make cities the places that they are. The food is exceptional; the scenery, otherworldly; and the drinks, sweet and strong; but what makes New Orleans so New Orleans-y is the people, every single one an architect of the culture we hold so dear.

Who wouldn’t want to take a picture of that?

So smile. Either way, you’re likely going to be in the picture, so put your best face forward. Remember that as intrusive as tourists can be, they’re there because they recognize something exceptional in the place that we call home, and want to capture it. Maybe we’ll be in their city one day, blocking foot traffic for a shot of the Empire State building or Magnificent Mile.

Most importantly, perhaps, feel lucky that the French Quarter is right down the street instead of pressed in your photo album.


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