In a project shot over three separate summers, photographer Laurence Stephens explores the disillusion that comes with organised travel.

In a project shot over three separate summers, photographer Laurence Stephens explores the disillusion that comes with organised travel.

Laurence Stephens was living in Barcelona when he stumbled upon his first bored tourist.

In a bid to escape the glare of the midday sun, the British photographer (new in town, and actively searching for a new project), decided to take refuge in the city’s cathedral.

As he wandered around, he began to notice countless, near-identical scenes unfolding in front of him: a revolving door of weary sightseers, united in their glaring indifference towards the whole thing.

“I had previously taken pictures of tourists around the city, but it wasn’t until I visited [the cathedral] that the project and the idea for the book came to me,” he explains, recalling the day.

“In the cool dark rooms, I quickly realised the humorous photographic potential that tourist hot spots like these could offer. Juxtaposed against the beautiful architecture was an array of bemused, disillusioned tourists, bored-half-asleep, unintentionally waiting to be photographed.”

That afternoon in the cathedral kick-started a project that would take Stephens across Spain and Portugal over the course of three summers, shooting holidaymakers having an overtly rubbish time.

Hopping from landmark to landmark, he quickly identified the jaded and downcast, documenting their obvious discontent with a wry humour. Today, those photos make up Bored Tourists, a book which operates as an all-encompassing portrait of the disappointing holiday.

“For me the book expresses something that is universal to the human condition – that in life, expectation can often lead to disappointment. I feel this is especially evident in tourism.”

“Wherever you go in the world, if a tourist experience is on offer, you’ll find people realising that it’s not what they’d hoped it would be. So in producing the work I set out to capture moments, which highlight for others an aspect of life that we are all subject to, wherever we come from.”

Bored Tourists is available now from Hoxton Mini Press.

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