Our family holiday snaps used to be slides. We’d gather in the sitting room while Dad clicked through each one. He and my mother are archaeologists, so the pictures were short on people and long on fortifications.
These days we tourists take so many photographs that a slide show would take all day. We record everything. The slightest thing. That promising first glass in the airport departure lounge; the entertainingly bungled English on the local restaurant menu (lol); our toes burrowing happily into smooth beach pebbles.
I went mad for the tiles on a recent Portugal trip, photographing hundreds, eager not to miss an even prettier patterned frontage. They were so lovely, so pleasing. But what will I do with all the pictures?
Thank goodness we now keep most of our memories digitally and display them on Facebook or Instagram rather than printing them out for a vast album or supersizing our mantelpieces. My tile highlights are floating somewhere among the other million or so #tile and over 100,000 #ihavethisthingwithtiles. But forever looking at a screen or through a lens, are we missing something?
The Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, associate priest at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, suggests so. Her editorial in the church newsletter went national last week when it highlighted the problem of tourists ruining the peace of her church as they bustle through, clicking away with their cameras, iPads and phones.
‘I have been overwhelmed by the number of tourists coming through the church and the fact that so many of them seem unaware that this is a sacred space,’ she wrote. ‘Not only is the whole experience of visiting St Mary’s so often seen through a camera lens, but also some visitors seem completely unaware of the difference between this space as the House of God and, say, that of the Sheldonian Theatre.’