For most people visiting a famous landmark, there is a quintessential angle to capture to get that perfect, iconic Instagram.
Photographer Oliver Curtis, however, has turned his back on that idea, and has spent the last four years taking pictures of what lies behind famous sites. From the Statue of Liberty to Christ the Redeemer, Curtis captures lesser-known views.
His work will be on display at the Royal Geographic Society in London from September 19 to October 14. The exhibition is called “Volte-face,” after a Latin phrase meaning to turning around to face the opposite direction in movement or attitude.
We talked with Curtis about his work, and his travels.
Curtis said his inspiration for the project began in 2012 at the Pyramids of Giza. 'Like many of the great monuments of the world, when you first encounter them you feel that you have somehow seen them before,' he told INSIDER in an email.
'It is very easy to whisk through and see all the angles and features one expects and is expected to see,' Curtis explains. Here, he shows a lone tourist observing 'The Wedding at Cana,' a painting by Paolo Veronese that hangs directly across from famous 'Mona Lisa.'
Many historic landmarks are swaddled in souvenir carts. Curtis turned around at the Colosseum in Rome to capture a close-up of plastic-wrapped 'David' replicas.
This was one of Curtis' favourite shots to capture. He visited the Christ the Redeemer statue early in the morning to find 'janitors and security guards in (a) reflective and playful mood, ignoring the statue and appreciating the view for what it was.' He adds 'It was a reminder that these monuments are also places of work where the staff have a relaxed ambivalence born of daily exposure.'
The imposing Great Wall of China has some less than imposing views.
Despite focusing on the unexpected, he says, 'There's still a thrill to be had in visiting a globally historic site for the first time.'
Curtis's advice to other travellers is to look for the unexpected.
'Despite being bombarded with images of a place prior to arriving there, there are always surprising aspects to a monument or historic site,' he explains. Tell that to the hordes of tourists trying to capture the perfect view of Mao Zedong's final resting place.
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