Following the precedent set by Harriet McKay in her blog post dated May 19th, I thought I’d promote the idea of inter-blog exchange and respond to Richard Dunn’s post below. His introduction to ‘Telescope stories: caught on film’ was really interesting and made me think about the conspicuous and repeated presence of the camera in the post-war cruise film (my PhD research, based at the NMM and University of Sheffield, focuses on post-war images of Oceanic Cruises in the NMM Film Archive). Not quite a telescope, but – I would argue – the tourist’s modern equivalent.
World At Three (1966), Dir. Frederic Goode, P&O
Frederic Goode’s World At Three (1966) at one moment sees the passengers of P&O’s Canberra decent onto the streets of San Francisco. Rather than offering us point-of-view shots of the city’s undulating boulevards, Goode retains a staunch focus on the passengers themselves. With cameras glued to their faces, these zealous photographers suck up every last drop of the city’s vibrant street life. Their identities are obscured as their instruments protect them from both the unknown of the city streets and the spectator’s own prying gaze.
The World Is Your Oyster (1965), Dir: Richard Lester, Union Castle
Richard Lester’s Union Castle film The World Is Your Oyster (1965) also contains the repeated motif of the camera. At certain moments it is seemingly used to make sense of the strange landscapes and people that are encountered. The woman in the above images surveys a coastline and a group of foreign children. The camera acts as her surrogate eye, sanitising these sites of otherness via the act of photography’s familiarity and its implied powers of ownership and appropriation. This kind of moment reminds me of Susan Sontag’s theories of the tourists’ camera as gun. Like the colonial explorer with the rifle, the tourist wields a camera to similar, symbolic effect.
Aweigh to the Sun, Union Castle
Finally, Union Castle’s Aweigh to the Sun (1960s) observes the film’s central couple as they visit an African safari park. Again, a camera forms a centrepiece of the sequence, as a man peers through his car window at a group of lions. Antagonised by the presence of these British tourists and their recording equipment, the lion charges at the car, causing the man to hastily and comically wind up his window. Here, the untamed forces of nature bite back against the western tourist, and the camera’s protective shroud is exposed as a dangerous fallacy.