My series for my film photography class, Tourists in Prague, documents the presence of tourists in Prague and how it affects the landscape. Despite their transient existence in the places they visit, tourists are in many ways part of the population in the cities they frequent, and leave their mark both on the daily lives of the city’s residents and the physical appearance of the city itself. These photographs were taken throughout February 2016, during what is considered the winter or “low” tourist season.
The so-called Selfie Stick, largely marketed for its touristic use, has become a recurrent reason for a smirk on the part of the local residents of Prague. This couple tests the stick at various angles before taking their picture in front of the Charles Bridge.
One of the first things that I was told upon arriving in Prague was that trdelnik, despite the multiple vendors declaring it an “Old Czech Tradition,” is actually a Bulgarian treat that only started being sold in Prague around the 1960s for the tourists. Nonetheless, multiple tourists crowd this stand in Old Town Square to try the pastry.
Each city develops a set of points that travel guides declare “must-see” landmarks; for the city’s residents, this set of points becomes a constellation map of tourists. A girl raises her hands and tilts her phone upwards to capture a photo of the clock tower without any other tourists in frame, while her friend stands beside her gazing at the clock.
Many of Europe’s visitors engage in the romantic tradition of inscribing their names on a lock and attaching it to fences and bridges, to the extent that some bridges in Paris have had to remove the locks after railings collapsed under their weight. These locks are attached to the railing over the river next to the Charles Bridge.
Within Prague, every resident knows to avoid Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, and Charles Bridge during the afternoon because of the massive crowds that are practically as permanent as the architectural masterpieces that surround them. Tourists stand en masse with their phones raised in Old Town Square, waiting for the astronomical clock to strike the hour.
My fellow American temporary expats have marveled at the popularity of what is to us the unremarkable chain restaurant KFC, which serves American fast food. This KFC stands near Staroměstská, a midway point between Old Town Square and Prague Castle; in the glass you can catch a hand, a cup, a KFC container, as evidence of the people eating lunch inside.