06 September 2012

Picture Book, a Holiday in August

During my trip to California this summer, I saw a new trend in tourism: green-screen tourist photography.

I first noticed this at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Before boarding a bus to go up the mountain to William Randolph Hearst’s very impressive complex, folks had the chance to have their photos taken in front of a bright green plastic sheet.

At the end of your visit, you could pay a large sum for that photograph of yourself digitally manipulated to look like you had visited…exactly the site you were visiting. Usually the only value in photographs of yourself posing front of a tourist site is to demonstrate that you were there—but these photos would be a reminder that you stood in front of a sheet of green plastic pretending you were a short distance away.

The next week I saw the same thing inside the lobby of the Sony Studio building and on the crowded plaza of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

I suppose the benefit is that your vacation photos don’t include all those other tourists who’d otherwise be in the frame. Just as you won’t appear in their pictures. In the case of Grauman’s Chinese, which was very crowded, this would completely fictionalize the experience.

I might have been interested if the services offered more imaginative options: having oneself inserted into a snapshot beside William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, and Hollywood celebrities of the 1930s, for example. Or helping Freddie Bartholomew leave his footprints in cement.

In future, sites could team up and let tourists green-screen themselves in front of other places that they don’t actually want to visit. That’s what’s happening in the photo above, from the “Texas on Tour” booth at the California State Fair.

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