In 1976, Roger Minick was teaching young photographers at the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite National Park when he first encountered a species of people he lovingly refers to as “
He recalls wave after wave of tourists coming to Inspiration Point in Yosemite to take snapshots in front of the site to prove that they were there. While he had often viewed tourists as a nuisance, he now saw that they were perhaps the most interesting subject, a representation of a uniquely American phenomenon.
He and his wife headed out on a road trip, not to photograph scenic spots as Ansel Adams would have done, but instead to turn the camera on tourists at top American destinations. Over the decades, he has taken many trips for that specific purpose.
These photos, between 15 and 30 years old, have taken on a time-capsule quality, documenting Americans across generations who make the pilgrimage to have their photo taken in front of the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and other iconic sites.
Minick and his wife’s first road trip in 1979 sent them through the western United States in a Volkswagen camper.
The photographs during that trip were shot in black and white. Minick says that a lot of the humour intended in his photos was lost in black and white, so he and his wife retraced their steps in 1980. That time he shot in colour.
At Statue of Liberty, NY 2000
Minick used a medium-format camera with a flash. Using the flash had the effect of flattening the background of the image so that it almost looks like a backdrop.
Women with Red Sweater at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, CA 1981
Minick would often wait for hours at each tourist attraction looking for a person or group that had that “elusive ‘something'” that made the photograph particularly compelling.
Sometimes it was their mode of travel or possessions that attracted him. Other times, like here, it was a clothing item.
Family Wearing Hawaiian Shirts, Mt. Rushmore, SD 1998
Over the years, Minick developed theories about tourists based on his observations. His favourite theory was that families that had matching outfits got along the best.
To get people to agree to have their photos taken, Minick would explain his project and then offer to take a professional portrait of them with a Polaroid camera that they could keep.
After road-trips in 1979, 1980, and 1981, Minick did not return to the project until the late 1990s, when he started to visit sites in the Midwest and East coast.
Sightseer Series/Roger Minick
Father & Son at Crazy Horse Monument, SD 1999
His last road-trip for the project was in 2000. Even those photos have a dated look to them at this point.
Family at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL 2000
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