Copyright 2008 Derek von Essen

The Tour Bus

The Tour Bus is a sociological pictorial which recreates the experience of tourists who appear detached as visitors while still being engaged as participants in their new surroundings.

The Tourist. Often marked by an accent or foreign language, oddly attired with camera slung around their necks and an obvious tell-tale sign: the Tour Bus. Upon arriving at their destination, the tourists portrayed here assemble outside their bus to await instructions. What to do? Where to go? What not to miss? What to avoid? Most importantly, when to meet back at the bus or risk possible abandonment or ostracism from the group for delaying the tour. They are disoriented and need to get their bearings at these new and unusual stops at mundane street corners, intersections and dodgy areas. The photographs in Tour Bus aim to capture the moment these tourists have disembarked and congregate outside of the bus.

Tour bus passengers often travel in packs. They enjoy the camaraderie and planned agenda. They have group-based interactions with the outside world and find it easier to engage socially with this new set of familiar faces as there's a sense of being in this together. Maybe their lives are complicated when not on holiday and prefer the predictability and guaranteed satisfaction this mode of sightseeing offers. Personal barriers are less restrictive on holiday time. Friendships and relationships can develop during these unguarded moments. There are stories and dramas unfolding, some of which are suggested in the hesitation, anticipation or awareness in their body language and positioning. The comfortable bubble these tourists travel within is about to be shaken like a snow globe in the hands of a five year old.

The Tour Bus photo exhibition by Derek von Essen recreates a new travel experience from old memories. During his self-guided travels abroad he inevitably encountered camera-laden tour groups vying for similar vantage points. However, preferring his scenery with little or no visible people forced von Essen to wait patiently for the perfect moment to shoot his own photos. Upon returning home he found the tourist-free images gave him an impression of the location but didn't always support the memory he had of the experience. The missing element was the tourists.

The Tour Bus photographs were created with miniature dioramas, including the tourists, their iconic tour bus and von Essen's original photo prints as a backdrop. With their body language and positioning, his small-scale tourists allude to personal interactions or dramas which may unfold. The photo backdrops are not popular tourist destinations but unusual places like mundane street corners in dodgy areas. While the sightseers are themselves visual consumers, the photographer is now a spectator, almost a voyeur -- after the fact and with a souvenir of his travel history.

The Cultch, Vancouver, BC
October 27 - November 7, 2010

Isabella Egan Gallery, Vancouver, BC
September 25 - October 14, 2008