Written by: Geoff Dyer
Translated by: Chang Yu
Photography by/ image by courtesy of：Geoff Dyer
“It’s a small world” is an idiom that expresses ‘surprise’ that people or events in different places are connected.
常言道：“世界真小 (It’s a small world)！”，萬事萬物在不同的地方仍有冥冥中的聯繫總讓人驚嘆。
In his essay ‘Small World’ Geoff Dyer looks at the world through photographs and the paradoxical relationship at the heart of the tourist experience;
“sightseeing in particular and holidaying generally are often the opposite of fun – partly because of all the other tourists.”
This is a common experience that we share with one another, but what ‘sights’ are we seeing when we are sightseeing?
Dyer writes, “People go to places not to see the places but to obtain evidence – photographs of themselves – of having been there. Martin Parr takes things a logical stage further: photographing people being photographed and taking photographs.”
From the earliest photographs of the Egyptian pyramids by Francis Frith in 1856 to a world where “one no longer has to travel to Egypt to experience the Orient; it can be found in Las Vegas, in the shape of the Luxor”, Dyer reveals a world that we recognise but have never seen.
We are pleased to introduce for the first time to Chinese readers the English writer, Geoff Dyer. ‘Small World’ has been translated by Yu Chang.
The tradition of photographing exotic places reaches back almost to the invention of the medium. As the Grand Tour was extended to take in ‘the Orient’ so, in the 1850s, photographers such as Francis Frith lugged their bulky equipment to the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. Once the resulting pictures of the pyramids and other wonders became widely available the desire to go to these places increased. Such was – such is – the allure and promise of photographs that people wanted to see the precise spots show in the pictures. Part of the motive for traveling was, as it were, to experience the photographs on site, for real. Of course there was a lot to see that hadn’t been photographed, but the places in the frame served as oases or taverns, nodes that visibly determined one’s itinerary. Adventurous travelers naturally wanted to get off this pre-beaten track. By so doing, the places they visited gradually became part of the track. Just as Wordsworth complained about the growing numbers of visitors to the Lake District that his poetry had attracted so travelers to out-of-the-way places began to lament the tourists that came after them.
As travelling has become quicker, easier and cheaper so this problem –or syndrome – has grown more acute. Whereas it once required a considerable effort of will and some ingenuity to get to Egypt, Paul Fussell, in his book Abroad, thinks that the coming of efficient, uniform jet travel- which ‘began in earnest around 1957’-‘represents an interesting moment in the history of human passivity’. Maybe so but, as Garry Winogrand’s airport photographs from the 1960s and ’70 attest, it also heralded a great democratic expansion of the opportunity horizon.
The pictures in Martin Parr’s Small world both sum up this contradictory history and depict what might turn out to be its terminal phase. They show the places photographed by the likes of Frith (the pyramids) and they show how the excitement and promise of Winogrand’s pictures has become a source of cramped frustration. When I was seven, in 1965, my parents and I went to London for a week’s holiday. One day, as part of this vacation, we took the Tube out to Heathrow, not to fly somewhere, just to see the airport. For us it was not a place of departure but a tourist destination in its own right. With the inconvenience of air travel drastically increased in the wake of 9/11 the average traveler – i.e. anyone not in Business or First- dreads going to the airport. To add insult to injury- or, more exactly, guilt to discomfort- we are now acutely conscious of the cost to the environment, of the way that air travel is contributing to global warming. In this context a stay-at-home like Fernando Pessoa seems almost visionary:’ What is travel and what use is it? All sunsets are sunsets; there is no need to go and see one in Constantinople.’
It’s not just the sunsets. When people do travel to Constantinople- or anywhere else for that matter- they can increasingly expect to find many of the things and conveniences taken for granted at home. Back in the 1950s the Swiss tourist Robert Frank traveled through America photographing ‘the kind of civilization born here and spreading everywhere’. Frank was right: forty years down the line Parr finds bits and pieces of the American imperium everywhere. (He also records the contrary tendency whereby one no longer has to travel to Egypt- with the attendant threat of terror- to experience the Orient; it can be found in Las Vegas, in the shape of the Luxor.) In order to escape the tentacles of this homogenizing ‘civilisation’ it is necessary to travel further and further afield. And by so doing you drag those tentacles after you. We are all responsible for the ruination we lament. Wherever you travel some kind of industry develops to cater for you –even if it’s not the kind of catering you, personally, were hoping for. A couple of years ago my wife and I traveled to Jaisalmer in the desert of Rajasthan, a place she remembered as being almost Calvino-esque in its isolated beauty. In the decade since her first visit, however, it had been incrementally trashed. With every bled nothing else so much as a fortified reincarnation of Camden market. In a cruel twist to the familiar story of how the indigenous people of a place (‘Indians’ as they were referred to throughout the Americas) traded the wealth of their land for a few worthless trinkets, the people of Jaisalmer, having put their heritage in hock, were left selling worthless trinkets that no one wanted- and, as a result, we, the tourists, felt cheated by the commerce that had sprung up to pander to us.
The effects of tourism are, of course, not uniform. Not all places have given themselves over entirely to tourism. But, as Mary McCarthy wrote almost half a century ago, ‘there is no use pretending that the tourist Venice is not the real Venice, which is possible with other cities- Rome or Florence or Naples. The tourist Venice is Venice…Venice is a folding picture-post-card of itself’.
Venice is an extreme case. Even in Rome or Florence, however, visitors feel reassured by the way there are so many others doing, seeing- and photographing – the same things. Off- putting to some, a restaurant offering a ‘Tourist Menu’ is tempting to many. At the risk of being racist, the Japanese- the ‘lens-faced Japanese’. In Martin Amis’ phrase- seem to take particular comfort in being photographed places not to see the places but to obtain evidence – photographs of themselves – of having been there. (Actually, this argument has been rehearsed so many times that it’s a negative version of the same tendency. By making the point I am effectively making a record of myself standing in front of a cultural edifice signifying superior worth and discernment.)
Parr takes things a logical stage further: photographing people being photographed and taking photographs. In this respect the Small World pictures stand comparison with the large-scale images by Thomas Struth, in which we look at visitors looking at famous works of art (which, lest we forget, are also tourist attractions). The difference is that whereas in Struth’s photographs that greatness- or aura or whatever you want to call it- of these artworks survives the process of mediation, in Parr’s ‘place’ and visitor work to their mutual diminution. Tacitly- or maybe not even tacitly – he endorses the verdict of the narrator in Don DeLillo’s The Names:
“Tourism is the march of stupidity. You’re expected to be stupid. The entire mechanism of the host country is geared to travelers acting stupidly. You walk around dazed, squinting into fold-out maps. You don’t know how to talk to people, how to get anywhere, what the money means, what time it is, what to eat or how to eat it. Being stupid is the pattern, the level and the norm.
Like DeLillo, Parr is not scathing or moralistic about this perceived failing. He enjoys it too much for that. There’s too much mileage in it.
It is as hard for photographers to be funny as it is for a critic to explain a joke (this probably has something to do with the medium’s defining quality of reproducibility; how many jokes can withstand infinite repetition?) but they can be witty. The wittiest photographer was Henri Cartier- Bresson (with Winogrand a close second), who, if he had worked in colour, might have relied on some of the same devices as Parr. Ironically, it was at the opening of Small World in Paris in 1995 that Cartier-Bresson told Parr that he must be ‘from a different planet’. One sees what he means but one also sees that, at some point in their orbits, their two planets are thrown into unexpected alignment. In the random accidents of colour Parr contrives to find a version of the rhymes and puns that Cartier-Bresson discovered in the fleeting symmetries of pictorial geometry.
Are Parr’s visual jokes at the expense of the people depicted? Is he fair? In the context of a world in which war photographers are snatching images of death maiming, grief and suffering Parr’s trespasses are easily forgiven. (Having mentioned war it’s worth remembering that, since Parr works in some of the most intensively photographed spots on earth, he can probably claim immunity on the grounds that they are, to use a phrase from Vietnam, free-fire zones.) I suspect, also, that the people in the photographs would recognize themselves and their fellow travelers. They would agree that, although they have chosen and paid to come to these places, sightseeing in particular and holidaying generally are often the opposite of fun- partly because of all the other tourists. (Like car drivers moaning about traffic, the disceming tourist often complains that a place is ‘too touristy’.) And the money, even in supposedly cheap places, slips through your fingers like water. Forty years on, my father is still traumatized by the extraordinary price of the choc-ice we almost bought outside Madame Tussaud’s during that trip to London. In this respect he has something in common with D.H. Lawrence, who, in Sea and Sardinia, is in a state of constant fury about being overcharged: ‘I am thoroughly sick to death of the sound of liras…Liras –liras-liras- nothing else. Romantic, poetic cypress-and-orange-tree Italy is gone. Remains an Italy smothered in the filthy smother of innumerable lira notes: ragged, unsavoury paper money so thick upon the air that one breathes it like some greasy fog.’
There is no way round it: to travel, either as backpacker or package tourist, is to be forced into being an incessant consumer. Factor in queues, hassle, jetlag and tummy upsets and it’s a wonder, even now, when travel has become so easy, that people still want to do it. Philip Larkin certainly didn’t want to, but he did consent, every year, to take his mother away for a dismal week somewhere in England (he didn’t believe in ‘abroad’). The experience led him to develop ‘a theory [that] “holidays” evolved from the medieval pilgrimage, and are essentially a kind of penance for being so happy and comfortable in one’s daily life’.
That’s what the pictures in Small World depict: the form and state of modern, faithless pilgrimage. I think, next year, I might try Mecca.
Geoff Dyer (photo : Matt Stuart)
Geoff Dyer was born in Cheltenham, England, in 1958. He was educated at the local Grammar School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Geoff lives in London.
He is the author of four novels: Paris Trance, The Search, The Colour of Memory, and, most recently, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; a critical study of John Berger, Ways of Telling; two collections of essays, Anglo-English Attitudes and Working the Room; and five genre-defying titles: But Beautiful, The Missing of the Somme, Out of Sheer Rage, Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It, and The Ongoing Moment. He is the editor of John Berger: Selected Essays and co-editor, with Margaret Sartor, of What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney.
A selection of essays from Anglo-English Attitudes and Working the Room entitled Otherwise Known as the Human Condition was published in the US in April 2011 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
His most recent book is Zona, about Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker (published in the UK and the US in Spring 2012).
Geoff Dyer was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2005.
馬丁·帕爾的《小世界》Martin Parr’s Small World
當旅遊變得越來越便捷、輕鬆和廉價時，環境問題——或者我們可以稱之為旅遊綜合徵——也就變得越來越嚴峻。不僅是環境問題，過去，只有那些熱衷冒險又富有智慧的人才敢去埃及旅行，保羅·法瑟爾(Paul Fussell)在《去國外(Abroad)》一書中認為這樣高效率和模式化的飛機旅遊時代的到來——大約始於1957——是人類歷史上一個有趣的時刻，標誌著人類從主動旅遊向被動旅遊的轉變。他的說法可能有一定的合理性，但不可否認，飛機的確給人們的出行帶來了極大的便捷，正如蓋瑞·溫諾格蘭德(Garry Winogrand)六七十年代的機場系列攝影作品所展示的那樣，飛機旅遊時代的到來，大大增加了人們出門旅遊的機會，極大地擴展了他們的視野。
威尼斯也許是一個極端的例子。在羅馬或佛羅倫薩，遊客大概會感到安慰，因為很多人跟自己一樣做著同樣的事，觀光、拍照等等。令人懊惱的是，一餐館專門推出 “遊客菜單”但卻大受歡迎。冒著被指責為種族歧視者的危險，馬丁·埃米斯（Martin Amis）戲謔地稱日本人為“照相狂日本佬”。用他的話來說——日本遊客對拍照的熱情令人咂舌，他們旅遊的真正樂趣不在於旅遊本身，而是製造證據——為自己拍照——證明自己到此一遊。（這麼說，我似乎又把我自己放到了一個文化制高點，以優越的價值觀和洞察力自居，去批判他國文化了）。
比起普通的圖片，帕爾的圖片在邏輯上更深一層：拍攝那些正在拍照的人。在這一點上，《小世界》系列和托馬斯·斯特魯斯(Thomas Struth)的大畫幅系列可以一比，我們通過斯特魯斯的圖片看遊客的同時他們也在看名畫（我們往往忽略了，其實這樣滿是遊客的場景也是景點的一部分）。兩者所不同的是，那些名畫的偉大和光環在冥思過程中還能幸存，但是在帕爾照片裡 “地點”和“遊客”的組合卻只能互相貶值。我們可以說帕爾用的是隱晦的方式表達他的思想——或者說是較為溫和的方式——他對唐·德里羅(Don DeLillo)在《名人們(The Names)》 中的觀點極為推崇：
讓批評家去解釋笑話是很困難的，同樣，我們也不能奢望讓攝影師去逗樂觀眾（這可能與圖片的可複製性有關；試想，有多少笑話能經得住無限的重複？）但攝影師可以很有趣。世界上最有趣的攝影師應該是亨利· 布列松·卡蒂埃（Henri Cartier-Bresson）（溫諾格蘭德稍遜於他），他如果嘗試彩照的話，大概也會用到一些同帕爾類似的策略吧。然而具有諷刺意味的是，在1995年巴黎舉行的《小世界》系列的首次展覽會上，卡蒂埃·布列松對帕爾說了一句這樣的話“你一定是從另一個星球來的”。通過觀察二人的作品我們不難發現，布勒松和帕爾這兩個來自“兩個星球”的攝影師在某些方面有着驚人的一致。帕爾從看似隨機的色彩選擇中發現了如何表達韻律和雙關意義的方法，而布列松則用圖片的幾何結構將這些意義表達了出來。
帕爾攝影的成功是建立在諷刺照片中人物的基礎之上的嗎？這樣做合理嗎？想想戰地記者們常發回的那些專門捕捉死亡、殘廢和人在水深火熱裡掙扎之類的特寫，帕爾的小嘲諷往往會被忽略（說起戰爭，可別忘了，帕爾工作的地方都是一些廣為人知的景點，也就是越南人所說的停火區，他是享有豁免權的）那些有幸被拍進照片的人在看到這些照片時會一眼認出他們自己吧。雖然他們是自願花錢出來的，但觀光也好——或就整個旅遊活動來說，有時候並非是一種享受——而是受罪——一定程度上是由於其他遊客的存在（正如司機會抱怨堵車一樣，敏感的遊客也常常會發牢騷“這個地方遊客太多了”）。還有就是旅遊花費了，即使你去相對廉價的景點，也難免花錢如流水。雖都過去快40年了，但我父親至今仍然對杜莎夫人蠟像館門口那昂貴的巧克力脆皮雪糕耿耿於懷，當時差點就忍痛買了。就這點來說，父親同戴維·赫伯特·勞倫斯(D.H. Lawrence)挺像的，後者在《大海與撒丁島(Sea and Sardinia)》一書中對（旅遊時）被宰憤怒不已——“我討厭死里拉(liras，意大利貨幣)這個詞了。到處聽到的都是里拉——里拉——里拉——除此之外就沒有別的。那個到處是柏樹和橘樹，浪漫又詩意的意大利已經不復存在了。意大利快被里拉堵窒息了：破爛、倒人胃口的錢發出濃重的骯髒氣味，像油膩的煙一樣難聞。”
傑夫·戴爾，1958年生於英格蘭切爾滕納姆（Cheltenham），曾就讀當地文法學校及牛津大學聖體學院（Corpus Christi College），現居倫敦。
傑夫共撰寫過四部小說，包括Paris Trance、 The Search、 The Colour of Memory,、Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanas。他亦出版過關於John Berger的評論研究Ways of Telling， 兩本論文集Anglo-English Attitudes和Working the Room，五本反流派書籍But Beautiful, The Missing of the Somme, Out of Sheer Rage, Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It和 The Ongoing Moment。他也編寫了John Berger：Selected Essays，與Margaret Sartor合編了What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney.
Anglo-English Attitudes論文集中的選登論文和Working the Room裡的Otherwise Known as the Human Condition在2011年4月於美國發表，並獲得國家書評獎（National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism）。
他最新作品 Zona於2012年春天在英國及美國出版, 書中講述的是Andrei Tarkovsky的電影 Stalker（潛行者，攝於1979年）。