Holidays are weighted with expectation. Every hour in every airport and train station around the world, tourists arrive with brimming suitcases and hopes of what will potentially be the best trip of their life. When visiting Barcelona, London-based photographer, Laurence Stephens, found himself ducking off the bustling streets and into the cool, dark interior of the city’s Cathedral. Here, he quickly realised the humorous photographic potential that tourist traps like these could offer. “Juxtaposed against the beautiful architecture was an array of bemused, disillusioned tourists, bored, half-asleep, unintentionally waiting to be photographed,” he recalls.
So formed the idea for Bored Tourists and, three summers spent travelling around Spain and Portugal later, the series is being released as a book by Hoxton Mini Press. 112-pages long, the publication travels from “stuffy museums to breath-taking skylines”, presenting Laurence’s chance encounters with an array of incredibly weary tourists.
“All my photographs are un-staged,” Laurence tells It’s Nice That, “It can take days of simply being out there looking and waiting, to capture one successful image.” Working in manual, constantly anticipating the next shot, his photographic approach sees him pre-setting his exposure, focus and flash, and removing any obstacles that could slow him down when the perfect moment presents itself. This technique results in images with a heightened sense of drama, their saturated colours providing a slightly artificial and surreal quality.
One such image featured in Bored Tourists, and a personal favourite of Laurence’s, shows a man, one hand clutching his pink suitcase, conked out on a mattress in the street. “I would say it came about from a combination of obsessive persistence and luck,” he recalls, “It was taken as I walked home after a long and very unsuccessful day taking pictures.” Walking back to his apartment, he spotted the man asleep, waited a while to be sure he was definitely asleep and then snapped the picture. “I particularly like the image because it’s exactly what I’m looking for when I’m taking pictures, something extraordinary, standing out from everyday life,” he adds, “this image, in particular, goes far beyond anything I imagined I would find. A tourist with flip-up sunglasses and a neon pink suitcase, asleep on a mattress in the street – it’s hard to convince people it wasn’t a setup, but it truly is just something I came across.”
It’s this serendipity which forms the basis of Laurence’s wider photographic practice. Always looking to isolate something extraordinary in the every day, Laurence works with tight crops to hone in on his subjects. “This is a good way to focus on what I find interesting about a subject, to enhance the intensity of what I want to fit into a composition, and exclude anything extraneous,” he explains. Ultimately, however, as Bored Tourists proves, his work tells stories by highlighting shared experiences which may otherwise go unnoticed. “Rather than trying to say too much in one picture, for me it is about building the story frame by frame,” he concludes.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.