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The picture above is a portrait of of Lisbon. While it is not the best picture, it will serve it’s purpose. This was taken from the highest vantage point of the city, and my group was specifically taken there for the purpose of this picture. We could capture the vast entirety of the city. The bridge, the harbor, the seemingly endless orange-roofed buildings. These pictures are quintessential to any study abroad program or short vacation, but I would like to take the time to explain why I find these pictures to be self-serving and hollow.

While these pictures are beautiful and seem to fully capture the experience of a new city, I feel as if people have the need to take these pictures to prove a point. Usually, they find their way to social media in an attempt to say “hey, look where I’ve been and what I’ve done”, but in reality this was the first stop of a very limited guided tour. The lack of exposure to the city is not the issue of the photographer, but tour companies understand that these pictures are highly valued among tourists and their online constituents.

Furthermore, I do not want to come off as condescending. I am just as guilty as everyone else, but I wanted to highlight the importance of actually experiencing the city rather than capturing it. Those sprawling streets are where people live, love, and grieve. Take the time to get lost in the unfamiliar labyrinth of alleyways. Confront the vulnerability of your senses.

I’m not saying that people should not take these pictures. Rather, wait until the last moment of the trip to capture the landscape. It will be much more meaningful.

John Moore

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