If you‘ve ever lived in a popular tourist destination, you’ll be familiar the kind of guided tours Ross Paxton has been capturing for the past three years while completing an MA in photojournalism and documentary photography at London College of Communication.
Shot using a large format camera, the project was inspired by a bus tour he took on a trip back to his home town, Whitby, and he was struck by the image of the bus load of tourists as they passed the town’s landmark Abbey. “I felt as though I was looking into the past and the passengers were looking forward into their futures, and since we were moving, it was like past, present and future had been flattened into one moment,” he says.
The York-based photographer estimates he’s now taken pictures of 35 tours in total, starting off locally then moving further afield, but always trying to include “a relic, sign or important monument from that particular town in each image”. He always asks the guide’s permission to take pictures, but since the tours are set up to provide photo opportunities, he’s never been refused. “I looked as though I was part of the experience, and if anyone was funny about being in the shot they’d move out of the way.”
He’s now finished the project and wants to make a book of the series, which has the intriguing title A General History Of Timeless Landscapes. But for now he intends to keep making work rooted in social history. “Martin Parr is an obvious influence, but I’m more interested in history than in a particular photographer’s work,” he says. “My interests lie in exploring how people relate to the past, and how we gauge our present environment from the history and objects that surround us.”
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