Site seeing (2): are there ‘must have’ photos at Pompeii?

Following on from yesterday’s blog, today I am going to talk about another aspect of my photography project: iconic, ‘must have’ photos.

What is notable in the lantern slides is the number of repeated photos: e.g. in the House of Vettii and the Street of the Tombs. This is a phenomenon that I need to give some more time to, but it does suggest that people feel the need to have their own version of particular views – more puzzling is when a single box of lantern slides (and so a single person??) has multiple copies of the same view.

The House of the Vettii in Passmore's lantern slide collection (AD36566_Passmorebx9im034-pp)

The House of the Vettii in Passmore’s lantern slide collection (AD36566_Passmorebx9im034-pp)

The House of the Vettii again in box 202 of the lantern slides (AD44497_instarchbx202im045-pp)

The House of the Vettii again in box 202 of the lantern slides (AD44497_instarchbx202im045-pp)

And the same photograph again of the House of the Vettii in box 202 of the lantern slides (AD44504_instarchbx202im044-pp)

And the same photograph again of the House of the Vettii in box 202 of the lantern slides. The foliage suggests this one may have been taken at a later date. (AD44504_instarchbx202im044-pp)

So, how does this compare to a ‘modern’ archaeologist? (i.e. me)

There are some distinct overlaps between my photos and those from the Institute collection: we have 18 shots that are exactly the same and 30 that are similar or equivalent. Of the 18 shots that are exactly the same, three each are of the Temple of Apollo and the Stabian Baths. The Temple of Apollo seems particularly to have ‘iconic’ status as it spans Beatrice Blackwood, the rest of the lantern slides, my photographs and those of TripAdvisor visitors. Ironically, we are all photographing a statue that wasn’t actually found in the temple at all!

Beatrice Blackwood's photograph of the Temple of Apollo in 1923 (AD24618_Blackwood018-pp)

Beatrice Blackwood’s photograph of the Temple of Apollo in 1923 (AD24618_Blackwood018-pp)

My photo of the Temple of Apollo in July 2014.

My photo of the Temple of Apollo in July 2014.

One of several versions of this photo of the Temple of Apollo on TripAdvisor. This one was taken by Belgo96 in October 2014.

One of several versions of this photo of the Temple of Apollo on TripAdvisor. This one was taken by Belgo96 in October 2014.

In the TripAdvisor photographs bodies are the most popular – not a main feature of either mine or lantern slides. Where I have photos of the bodies, they are incidental and not taking up the central and largest part of the photograph. These are closely followed by street scenes, houses, wallpaintings and the forum. I was quite pleased to see that sex paintings/the brothel/phallic symbols only just made it into the top ten (and only then because I grouped them together). This quite nicely fits with one of Alia Wallace’s observations (http://www.pia-journal.co.uk/article/view/pia.406/519) that visitors on average spent less than 30 seconds in the brothel (despite queuing for long periods of time) – clearly people are not lingering long enough to take photos (though this may be due to pressure from tour guides to keep moving?).

There are also some unexpected shots in the TripAdvisor photos e.g. 6 of the Pompei Viva sign and two of closed off entrances.

'Scandale grande' - clauzwa (TripAdvisor July 2014)

‘Scandale grande’ – clauzwa (TripAdvisor July 2014)

'Typischer Eingang' - Fabian 308 (TripAdvisor October 2014)

‘Typischer Eingang’ – Fabian 308 (TripAdvisor October 2014)

The latter two photographs hint at a source of annoyance about experiencing the site: access. One of the photographs makes this point very clearly in its caption: typischer Eingang. This problem was highlighted in Alia Wallace’s study where visitors expressed a high level of frustration at not being able to access all parts of the site (and not understanding why parts were closed off). In some cases, the visitors she interviewed admitted to crossing the barriers or moving them out of the way to gain access to restricted areas. This is probably the area that has most changed from the time of the lantern slides – the variety of houses represented in the lantern slides could not be replicated today as of 515 houses at the site, only 7 are regularly open to the public today. Similarly, some photographs cannot be replicated as they seem to involve climbing on other buildings e.g. a particularly popular photograph of the forum that seems to have been taken by standing on one of the three buildings at the southern end of the forum.

One of several versions of this photo in the lantern slide collection of the forum in Pompeii looking towards Vesuvius. This photo must have been taken by standing on one of the buildings at the southern end of the forum (AD44389_Instarchbx208im063-pp).

One of several versions of this photo in the lantern slide collection of the forum in Pompeii looking towards Vesuvius. This photo must have been taken by standing on one of the buildings at the southern end of the forum (AD44389_Instarchbx208im063-pp).

So, overall, the picture is rather complex and will certainly repay more analysis and thought. Although there are changes in preoccupations, for example bodies being more popular now than then (were they displayed so prominently in the past?), there seem to be some iconic photos, like the one of the Temple of Apollo that have been popular from the late 19th century down to the modern day. Is this because people have seen this photo before, for example in guide books, and so want to take their own version and/or because it has aesthetic value with Vesuvius glowering in the background?

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