SHOULD YOU FIND YOURSELF FEELING SLIGHTLY EMBARRASSED when taking travel photographs, just picture yourself as a fabulously-lean, fabulously-dressed Katharine Hepburn shutterbugging away in a fabulously-picturesque Venice. Aside from the unfortunate detail of the canal fall supposedly giving her a form of conjunctivitis for the rest of her life, what's a little splash really? As Susan Sontag asserts, "It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along."
Guilty of the same "hold on to this" "a little closer" "a little higher" commands Katharine Hepburn, as Jane Hudson, gave a stranger in the opening scenes of Summertime, I am all too familiar with the delight, as well as the distress, that comes with tourist photography. Am I taking too much? Am I taking too long? Am I blocking someone's shot? Am I blocking someone's view? Might I suddenly drop my camera? Might I suddenly drop my phone? Might I get run over or mugged? There's only so much you can ponder before taking a shot, and getting your shot blocked by a head, elbow, or camera of another tourist, who was smart enough not to ponder taking a shot as much as you do. Sometimes it may be best to literally just point and shoot.
To be precise, Katharine was taking footage, not stills. Cue Video on Instagram and an even more amplified sensation ensues, of capturing and consuming a locale, while being simultaneously captured and consumed by it. I've found it challenging to control myself with this new feature. And I haven't even gone traveling with it yet!
So should you find yourself slightly embarrassed when being that camera-lugging tourist, think of Katharine Hepburn and shutterbug away. As with all other things, just be polite with it. Who knows, you might even unexpectedly capture your own Rossano Brazzi.
Summertime, 1955. Directed by David Lean.