Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
John H. Raeburn
Susan J. Birrell
This dissertation examines how tourists used photography during a period when economic prosperity and guaranteed vacation time meant increasing numbers of Americans gained the ability to travel for vacation; cameras and film became less expensive and travel photography more ubiquitous; and photographs produced by tourists helped shape the visual imaginary of the West. Tourists used the activity of photographing to be engaged in their vacations and their photographs represent authentic interactions among traveling companions.
Typically, cultural critics view tourists as passive consumers who unthinkingly follow guidebooks' prescriptions and whose photographic practices prevent them from having authentic vacation experiences. While photographs in guidebooks, travel magazines, and other advice literature showed potential tourists what they should capture on film, tourists did not strictly follow that advice. Instead, tourists creatively engaged with photography to enhance their vacation experiences. My examination of tourist photographs reveals that tourists made choices about their photographic subjects, even as they also photographed iconic western scenes. Vacationers shot a variety of subjects, many of which are unexpected. As they traveled through the West, tourists used their cameras to connect with their companions, to amuse and entertain themselves and to create vacation stories to share with family and friends.
My argument restores agency to tourist subjects by engaging concretely with their photographs. Because I emphasize tourist photographs, reading them as aesthetic constructions that enact the processes of creating meaning and identity, my project intervenes to quarrel with scholars and cultural critics who have often viewed tourists and the activity, aesthetics, and meaning of their photographs as inauthentic, vacuous and overly mediated.
Copyright 2012 Cinda Marie Nofziger
Nofziger, Cinda Marie. "Vacation views: tourist photographs of the American West, 1945-1980." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2012.