Simon Roberts. First Cliff Walk, Grindelwald.
First Cliff Walk, Grindelwald, 2016 from the series ‘Sight Sacralization—(Re)framing Switzerland'.
My premise in this series of work was to capture images in some of the most-photographed places in Switzerland, deliberately seeking out the picturesque landscape views that attract tourists. Whereas in the days of the European Grand Tours, travellers would hike and climb for days to reach vantage points in order to experience the pleasure of the sublime. Today’s tourists are transported in minutes by cable car to the safety of designated viewpoints. The process of discovery has been altered.
Of course, this is not only a Swiss phenomenon, but it becomes important when we consider that Switzerland’s tourism capital lies predominantly in its landscape. In the 18th century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau withdrew into the mountains because he was unhappy with the behavior of city-dwellers and hoped to lead a secluded life communing with nature. This photograph illustrates how Rousseau’s Romantic perception of the Swiss landscape has been radically altered as a result of the different ways in which tourists ‘consume’ this same landscape.
Today many tourists upload their photos onto various social media platforms in realtime accompanied by a geo-tag where, once upon a time, these photos were intended only for private albums back home.
Simon Roberts (b.1974) is a British photographer whose work deals with our relationship to landscape and notions of identity and belonging. He has exhibited widely and his photographs reside in major public collections, including the George Eastman House, Deutsche Börse Art Collection, Victoria & Albert Museum and the Sir Elton John Photography Collection.
Follow Simon on instagram at @simoncroberts.