While teaching at the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite National Park in the 1970s Roger Minick began photographing sightseers. Interested in this American activity Minick wanted to capture the “cacophony of clicking shutters” and waves of tourists seeking photographic proof that they had made it to a famous vista.
Minick’s photographs portray unique narratives of what is mainly America’s middle-class. Poignant and humorous all at once, the images show varied individuals with intriguing and sometimes seemingly strange stories. What is interesting is that, so far as a viewer can tell, all the subjects have only one thing in common: their desire to be in famous places in nature. Sometimes stereotyped Minick’s images successfully portray the American tourist as being wholly distinct.
Moreover, set against iconic backdrops the images become more than just portraits. They demonstrate a juxtaposition of nature and culture. As David Pagel wrote in the LA Times in 1997, “these supple works use the discomfort most people feel when confronted by nature’s inhuman scale as a metaphor for the precariousness of culture in a democratic society. Awkward and uncertain, sometimes fun and at other times frightening, this quiet anxiety is a big part of these pictures’ power.”