“a research project on visual representations of traveling by photographs of travel agencies in downtown cairo. here traveling is not embodied by images of palm beaches, but maps let the ‘client’ in fact imagine its own pictures of destinations. world maps figure as projection surfaces.” – maia gusberti

29/06/2012 § 1 Comment

maia gusberti,  travel agencies (2008)

 

aleya hamza  how did you become interested in working on the travel agencies series?
maia gusberti  i have a special interest in maps and geography and one of my older projects was based on mappings (www.logicaland.net).  this photography project began spontaneously when world maps in small travel offices catering locals in downtown cairo caught my attention.  at the beginning i was fascinated by one or two examples of world maps until i realized that the world map is a central object in many travel agencies, and that they all have totally different forms from reliefs to old fashioned maps to light-boxes.  meanwhile i wondered about the quasi absence of photographic depictions of travel destinations when these representations of the ‘dream-destination’ are a key tool to promote holidays in europe.  there we often encounter the image of the palm island, the sand beach, the exotic street life…commercialized, globalized and standardized products selling personal leisure, glamorous tourist adventures or cheap flight tickets for a jet-set weekend elsewhere.  here in downtown cairo if at all you’ll find one photographic image of the kaaba in mecca.  so instead of photographic representations we are confronted with world maps as ‘projection surfaces’ for imaginations.  maps allow us to produce our own private images, to travel in our fantasies.  this replacement of the image by the map made me want to take images about the absence of the image to produce imaginations.  the map is therefore a wonderful example of a standardized symbol stimulating individual interpretations.  my photographs are about places void of pictures but rich in dreams, images, imaginations and promises.

aleya hamza  your images have a deliberate snapshot appearance, informal and un-composed.  why?
maia gusberti  i did not want to have well-composed and perfectly styled pictures since it was practically impossible to pull through a strong composition concept.  when i began asking for permission to take pictures of the maps in travel agencies telling them i’m an artist interested in maps i was often grilled about the project with curious questions, amused nods and a general lack of understanding of how anyone could possibly be interested in such an issue, but i was more or less allowed to shoot every time.  usually i took more than one picture – but lots of the employees were uncomfortable and just left while others continued with their work – but of course i felt like i was disturbing them after a while especially since clients sometimes had to wait while i finished.  most of the offices are very small and narrow which made it difficult to find a good spot to compose my image and i had to get what i wanted by finding (more than choosing) a possible angle and the light conditions were very different between offices that had daylight or neon-light.  initially i was more or less ‘documenting’ these places with my old analog nikon, judging the images after developing the film, until i realized this could become a series.  i also didn’t want to change the rough-and-ready style of these offices.  i deliberately wanted the atmosphere of a temporary and provisional space – lost somewhere between imagination and realization.  i see myself as a passenger, passing by these places in transition or about to transition.  the project has never been about a shiny composed study or a record of 60’ies and 70’ies interior design.  it is about an atmosphere and a location existing somewhere in the ‘in betweenness’ of fantasia and on a first step towards a destination.

aleya hamza  why does the representation of travel interest you?
maia gusberti  it makes me think about possibilities, conditions or reasons for traveling and their relationship to desires, promises and illusions.  here in cairo traveling means something totally different than it does on the high streets of western european cities and on some level they both refer to socio-political realities.  many agencies here are specialized in hajj and sell tickets to saudi arabia for work purposes.  it’s not really about the ideal of the palm island.  who can afford a dream of palm islands here?  the reality is more about survival strategies, working abroad, pilgrimage, fighting for a visa etc.

these travel-specific desires and illusions can be somehow summarized in maps.

as a designer and artist i try to look out for visual signs and i wonder about the layers of meanings which can be imagined and explored by digging a bit deeper.

 

– interview between aleya hamza and maia gusberti

 

maps of desire

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[title + images]     today’s title is the project description for today’s photography.  all of which can be found… here on maia’s website.  check out travel agencies and the rest of her work.  great stuff.

[interview]     the following interview was found on maia gusberti’s website.  for the complete interview click… here.

[more everyday photography]     for a previous essay excerpt on photography of the everyday terrain, follow this link.

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You are currently reading “a research project on visual representations of traveling by photographs of travel agencies in downtown cairo. here traveling is not embodied by images of palm beaches, but maps let the ‘client’ in fact imagine its own pictures of destinations. world maps figure as projection surfaces.” – maia gusberti at a young hare.

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