A Disturbing New Trend in Travel Photography

Ipad Camera in Varanasi India

In Varanasi, in the year 2012, among the dead bodies floating down the Ganges, the corpses burning in the funeral pyres, amid the voracious touts and the Indians bathing in the polluted, trash-filled river, I noticed something disturbing and out of place: I saw a guy using his iPad for a camera.

I took this photo of him because it seemed so absurd that anyone would use his iPad for a camera that I had to document this one-off event.

Ipad Camera in Varanasi India

A tourist using his iPad for a camera in Varanasi, India.

However, last year while traveling around Europe, it became apparent that this issue is more widespread than previously thought. Everywhere I went I saw people squinting into a fingerprint covered screen in bright sun or fighting with the unwieldy cover flap blowing in the wind, trying to compose a photo with their iPad.

I Have a Photography Fetish

But then, I discovered something even more disturbing – evidently I have an obsession with taking photos of people taking photos with their iPads. I didn’t realize it at first, but after looking back through my pictures I discovered that I had a problem, an addiction, a photography fetish.

All across Europe I took photos of people taking photos with their iPads in every setting imaginable. I took photos of people taking photos in places of worship;

iPad camera in mosques

iPad camera in a mosque.

iPad Camera in the Vatican

The iPad can be used to photograph religious statues. There is also an app that proves the existence of God.

I documented people using the iPad camera on gondolas.

iPad Camera in Venice

Tourist on the Gondola with a green iPad, only discernible from someone like me who is on the lookout for iPad cameras.

iPad on Gondola with kissing couple

Somehow the iPad camera makes this less romantic.

I documented people documenting sunsets
Santorini sunset with iPad

and those photographing street scenes at night.

iPad camera photo in Roman backstreets

Few things are more romantic than a stroll down the Roman backstreets on a rainy night with an iPad.

I photographed people who love Greece

I love Greece and iPad Cameras!

and tools who leave the sticker-label on their hat.

iPad camera in Rome

I photographed people photographing grand things like the Trevei Fountain

iPad at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

iPad at the Trevi Fountain

and the obscure and mundane.

tourist using iPad for camera

Do you really need a photo of that?

Statue photo with iPad

Somewhere his family is being bored to death by his slideshow from his trip.

iPad camera in Istanbul

I learned that the iPad is used almost everywhere, but unfortunately there is no app to ward off touts.

iPad camera and touts in Rome

The Evolution of the Camera

How did we get here? Everyone it seems is using the iPad as a camera. Cameras have evolved from large, cumbersome machines that use film to small digital boxes that fit neatly into the pocket. So why are we regressing? The benefit of using the iPad is that photos are stored right on the computer, ready for editing and sharing. However, this convenience isn’t worth using a device not meant for a camera and looking like an idiot while doing it.

Below is a chart that sums up human and camera evolution. It wasn’t that long ago, during the caveman days to be exact, that we were using daguerreotypes. We reached the height of human civilization at the same time that we started using the iPad and have since regressed to caveman status and selflies.

Camera Evolution Chart Infographic

So, readers, this begs the question: Am I the weirdo or are the iPad photographers the strange ones? 

How do you feel about the iPad camera?

I welcome comments on this subject. 

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43 Comments on “A Disturbing New Trend in Travel Photography

  1. It did feel weird for me when I first saw it (especially during my trip to Europe). But then I saw it mostly being used by elders who would have trouble using any other kind of small cameras. I feel it is OK as long as they don’t disturb others. Because it occupies a little more space, if others are trying to capture it using their small cameras it is going to disturb their view too.

    • That makes me feel bad that old people are using it cause they can’t see! I tried to take one photo using it as a test and I couldn’t see due to the glare from the sun.

  2. I have to own up and admit to using my ipad mini on occasion but only for those moments in Hanoi when I have to capture something ridiculous immediately and I am not lugging around my super heavy SLR. E.g. the other day – birds stuffed into coke cans – one day when I find out what they are I will do a blog post but sometimes these things can’t wait for a return trip with the slr. These peculiar things then slip into my instagram… To give the woman credit taking the picture of the sign I again sometimes do that not to have a good pic but as a reference so I can go look something up or get a few words translated. Again did this in the Hanoi Cathedral with a caption under a martyr’s skull – this reminds me I still need to check who the guy was!

    • Jura – we will forgive you for using it since you also have a DSLR. And I can imagine that in Hanoi you are always seeing interesting things. I’d never be able to get anywhere there as I’d always be taking photos of the bizarre things being hauled around on motorbikes.

  3. Ha! I can’t believe you took so many pictures of people using ipads as a camera, that is a little kooky, but well done on a really entertaining post! I have to admit, I think the ipad photographers look odd. I can handle the phone, it says, “Hey I forgot my camera” or “This ones going straight to Facebook”. But the ipad just says, “I’ve got a new toy, and I haven’t learnt how to use anything on it other than the camera and Facebook!”

    • I think you are right on people using it as their new toy.

      However, if I didn’t use a DSLR I’d get an iPhone and use it. I feel like the iPhone camera is as good as any point and shoot, I could upload it straight to the net and it is something I can use in a sneaky manner.

  4. It is an interesting phenomenon, people using their tablets to take photos…and then you photographing them… In Paris in 2012, the first day I took the usual photos of the Eiffel Tower, the last day a little jaded by this, I started taking pictures of people posing in front of the tower for various photos….it became more interesting to me than the Tower itself.

  5. iPads should not be used for public photographs. They obstruct the view of others and the people using them look like idiots!

  6. My favorite is when they are holding the ipad up by the magnetic cover, which then fails to hold the ipad, which falls to the ground… I’ve seen this twice now.

    People can do what they want obviously but it makes me sad because they are easily the least practical (modern) camera imaginable.

    • I am glad you are amused (and that you get the sarcastic nature of the post).

      Once I got started taking photos of people with the iPad, I became obsessed.

  7. I saw one tourist in Kyoto who was doing this. It felt weird but I notice that majority of the people I saw doing this are mostly elderly folks. Convenience perhaps? Bigger screen, better viewing?

      • LOL .. I think another reason is also real-time update on social meida like facebook.

        I’m still using iphone camera now, I know I should be getting a real camera soon 😀

  8. I see this all the time to and amused by it. Very similar to the plastic camera situation in the 70’s it seemed everyone had one. Thankfully with the iPad you don’t have to smell the burning plastic of the flash cube on top.

  9. I just love the fact that you took the time to take these pictures. It’s these themes that capture travelers and your unique view of the world that make me smile!

  10. I have seen a lot of Brits and Americans taking pictures with Ipads and android tablets (especially in Greece!) …disturbing, if you ask me. On the other hand. If a DSLR is too much for somebody to handle why not an ipad/android tablet? I rarely take pictures with my androit tablet – the image quality suffers greatly.

  11. I’ve only seen this a couple of times (does it only happen outside of the US?) and never understood it. Why would I want to lug a giant iPad around and not just use my iPhone other smart phone. I’m pretty sure those take better quality pictures and they’re easier to handle. We have one of those check cashing apps and every time I try to use the iPad to take the picture I can barely hold the thing steady to take the picture.

    Love your pics. They might even be better than the people doing dumb stuff around animals pictures. Maybe.

    • Jennifer – I am glad you agree with me. The only way I see the iPad being appropriate (at least for a check) is if you win a golf tournament and get one of those huge checks – then the iPad makes sense since it is to scale.

      I will have to maybe do a comparison of people around stupid animals and iPads photos. That could be interesting.

  12. Jeff, There is a never ending supply of stupid people. Just recently, they did a pole and
    found that (in the USA) 25% of people questioned think the sun revolves around the earth.
    It’s probably way over 75% if you poled people around the world.

    So, I get that you are having fun with this, but if it’s possible to take pictures with an ipad,
    why not? It saves downloading to another device and you get to see a large picture while
    you are doing it. Seems OK to me. But then, I wouldn’t own anything with an “i” in front of
    it anyhow.

    • Steve – The sun doesn’t revolve around the earth?

      That is a nice advantage, as you mention, that you don’t have to download. I take an iPad traveling and downloading the photos is annoying. I am thinking about selling it though and getting a small computer instead. You are not the target market to sell my iPad, it seems.

  13. I agree it seems silly, especially when you have a smart phone too. But if that’s all you’ve got, I can see the desire to capture a photo or video. Everyone does it! Last time at Yellowstone I decided to do Old Faithful. Sitting right next to me was a guy using an Ipad. I asked him why he uses that instead of a real camera or even a phone. He just said it’s convenient. It seems like an inconvenient device to me, but I’m not like most people today with regards to technology.

    • Thank you for asking someone why they use it! We are getting closer to solving this mystery about the iPad camera. It doesn’t seem convenient to me to hold up a 8 by 6 screen with a flap on it, but then again he might find my DSLR and the lenses I carry around to be inconvenient also.

  14. I just find it weird. But I’give me an i-pad photographer over a relentless selfie taker any day. And then the rush to upload it on Facebook/ Instagram/ Twitter/ whatever… I feel like whacking such people on the head! Fantastic graphic BTW!

  15. I see this everyday on the buses in Denali. I think the people that are happy with tablets and phones as their cameras are the people that before digital would not have had a camera or would have had a one time use camera for the occassion. Digital has made everyone a better photographer though it has notmade everyone into a “photographer”?

    • Good point. There are billions of photos taken every year and so many people think they are photographers but they are not, on the other hand, it allows us to capture our memories for the future.

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