cover image Around the World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums

Around the World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums

Kirsten M. Jensen, Barbara Levine, . . Princeton Architectural, $55 (207pp) ISBN 978-1-56898-708-8

This painstakingly assembled collection gathers excerpts from the personal journals and photo albums of turn-of-the-century, middle-class American travelers to Europe, East Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. These tourists created their albums during an era when photographic visual information from foreign cultures was precious because it was rare. Many photos are intriguing as historical documents—they capture the experience of travelers who lived a century ago, and, in a few cases, they vividly illustrate daily life in exotic locales—Siam, Cambodia and Trinidad. Levine (Snapshot Chronicles) and Jensen (Picturing Arizona) assert that the experience of travel and how it is documented has been transformed with the quantum technological leaps in transportation and photography. But photo after photo resemble the holiday snapshots of a shutterbug relative: lineups of tourists posed in front of some exotic monument (e.g., the Sphinx or the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Even as the authors make an effective argument that the qualitative experience of travel has been altered, their book provides compelling visual evidence that tourist photography hasn’t changed much at all. Nonetheless, avid travelers who might enjoy placing their own photo albums in historical context will be charmed by this compilation. (Dec. 3)