You have to hand it the guys in the street outside the main tourist attractions. They always sell what the latest craze is, and do so with great aplomb and persistence. Over the years, the goods for sale change as items come in and out of fashion. I recall laser lights, dancing dolls and dogs, and of course the ubiquitous fake designer bags.
All except the bags and sunglasses have now been ditched in favour of the selfie stick: the must-have accessory for the modern day tourist experience.
This trend is quite new. When I was in Rome last summer there were few on the ground. Now they punctuate the skyline. The only time when they are ditched is when it starts raining, The selfie sticks are put away and out come the shit umbrellas and brightly coloured ponchos.
Although many museums have now banned the selfie stick, outside in the street, especially in front of that iconic monument or landmark the stick comes into its own. Getting the photo of you and your loved one(s) with the landmark in the background is de riguer. The tourism industry, which is the biggest in the world, now dictates that the first requirement of any trip is to prove you were there with the necessary photo. It connects you to the world that we know and understand, and is a vital part of any successful holiday experience. We used to have to ask a passing tourist to take the photo, but thanks to the selfie stick those days are over and we are now self sufficient.
What happens with this huge archive of self-expression and proof of visitation is anyone’s guess. Images get posted onto Facebook, or tweeted or Instagrammed and then probably forgotten. They certainly don’t make the family album; that genre has long since died.
I am writing this from Venice where every day there must be millions of self-portraits taken and an equal number of generic photos of this film set city. The only problem is waiting for the gap in the tourist traffic to ensure other people don’t block your view, or get into your photo.
Anyway, I welcome this trend as, interestingly, you can get the whole scene in front of the camera and the backdrop all in one photo. Previously I had to make to do with photos of people from behind as they looked at the view.