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Tourist photographs: signs of self

Russell Belk (Kraft Foods Canada Chair in Marketing at the Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Joyce Hsiu‐yen Yeh (Associate Professor at the National Dong Hwa University, Hualien, Taiwan)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 11 October 2011




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the reasons that tourists capture images of their trips on cameras or camcorders.


Over a period of approximately five years, the authors observed, photographed and interviewed tourists taking photos or videos in diverse international locations. Upon returning home, informants e‐mailed their trip photos together with descriptions of what the images meant and what they had done with them when at home. These data were archived and interpreted in line with the central research questions.


Why does almost every tourist carry a camera or camcorder? What are they doing making these images? And what do they do with them once they return home? The accompanying video conveys most of the findings, while the manuscript elaborates on certain theoretical points and provides contextualizing and supportive evidence from the literatures dealing with tourism and photography.


The paper suggests that the images form part of an identity project, serving as a means of conveying internal tales to the self rather than as a means of, beyond the immediate family, communicating with others. The images act as tools for displacing meanings that are too fragile and tenuous to be contained in the fragile present as Grant McCracken describes more generally with regard to tying hopes and dreams to places and times of the past and future.



Belk, R. and Hsiu‐yen Yeh, J. (2011), "Tourist photographs: signs of self", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 345-353.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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