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Taking photos of a travel agent's shop windows

For the photos, go to Photographs of travel agency window inside/outside

I felt reminded of Dan Graham's work looking at the fluctuating reflections in the travel agent's large windows, transparency depending on the varying intensity of the outdoor light.

At the first occasion (about 19. 10. 01) the light was dim, which meant that the light inside was bright enough to see both inside and outside. I went inside, gave my company card to a young woman, and said I was involved in a EU project called PANOPE about tourism and the internet, and wanted to take a photo of the outside of a typical travel agent's bureau. She immediately got up and walked to the back of the bureau to get her boss. The boss came out, listened to my explanation - which included a hint that I wouldn't really have to ask for permission since it was outdoors photography and anyone was free to photograph anything at his whim; but that I wanted to explain what I was doing since the employees might be caught on the photographs and they might wonder what I was up to.

The boss agreed with that argument and said (without asking her employees in advance) that they would not object to photos being taken. 'Will you have our name on them?' - 'Maybe, may be not. This isn't going to be published by the press.'

The boss said to the young woman working in profile near the window, 'then you at least should get up and go elsewhere', to which I replied, 'No, it's actually better if everyone works as usual, there is no need to move.'

During my taking of the photographs, she stayed put, but it was obvious that she didn't like the situation. She tended to look towards the inside of the room, also when on the phone. Then she took a break and left her place. Her colleague, sitting at the bottom of the shop and looking towards the window also left, but returned later.

On 26. 10. 01, after lunch, there was sunshine outside. The reflections of the Wirtschaftsbehörde office block weren't as expected since I had seen the bureau later in the afternoom on another day, when the parts of the Wirtschaftsbehörde closest to the street were brightly lit.

When I arrived, I just saw the boss leaving the office. I stood there for a couple of minutes, not convinced that I should have a second go under these lighting conditions. Finally, I went in, talked to one of the older employees, and explained that I had returned for more photographs since the light had not been that good the last time.

The young woman, working in profile at the same window seat, left immeadiately (probably to take her lunch break) no longer feeling obliged to stay put as during the implicit contract of the first time, when her boss agreed to photos being taken and I in turn favoured an unchanged setting, i.e., with her in place.

What is it that the photographs show? There are several layers:

  1. reflection of photographer (?) and Wirtschaftsbehörde
  2. photographs on display: white beaches, clear water, exotic plants, etc. (Malediven? Malta?)
  3. (fake) indices of distant desinations: sand in cylindrical glass containers resembling pharmaceutical containers
  4. teddy bears, some of them in deckchairs, standing in for real tourists and giving the whole display a rather worn-out humoristic touch
  5. a basket of tropical (fake) fruits
  6. (fake) mediterranian flowers - probably oleander, wasn't that the most poisonous plant of all?
  7. leaflets and brochures laid out with several identical copies in a fan-shaped pattern
  8. In the dim warm light, the employees and their work places (computer, telephone, catalogues and timetables)

Why taking these photographs?

So why? It is one starting point approaching the complex of travel as researchable commodity. Jusat the first one.

During all the twenty minutes I needed to take the photographs, no customers came in; just a worker in an overall who either was a regular or had come to fix something and decided to keep hanging out near the door - could it be that he felt like protecting the employees against an ill-understood potential threat from a weird photographer?

Last update: 12 February 2005 | Impressum—Imprint