A Supposedly Fun Thing: An Exhibit of Voyeuristic Travel

Guest post by Jamie Rhein

Photographer Mitya Trotsky‘s exhibit, “A Supposedly Fun-Thing,” at the ArtMedia Gallery in Miami has me wishing I was heading to Florida soon, and thinking about travel photography. Specifically, what it takes to get a photo of merit that evokes more than just a pretty scene.

Timing is often key, like when I stood on a street corner in Hoi An, Vietnam snapping photos of people going by on motorcycles and bicycles in various combinations early one morning because the light was better. I mostly was interested in what people were transporting like baskets laden with goods for market and several family members balanced in a row on one seat like a circus act. Each passed by the golden yellow wall of the building  across from where I stood. A mauve bougainvillea plant created a vibrant backdrop to make the images pop.

Trotsky’s vantage point of his photos was from his condominium where he could watch cruise ships head out from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale. Using a telephoto lens, he was able to hone in on passengers’ moods which did not always match the joy one would think someone embarking on a vacation might feel. Melancholy is one of the moods that Trotsky’s camera captured.  Perhaps being trapped in days of what’s supposed to be fun, but may not be fun at all?


There’s a voyeuristic element, of course, since the passengers didn’t know they were being photographed. However, how many times as travelers do we drop into scenes as watchers, sometimes taking a photo because of an interesting expression or outfit that has caught our eye? As we pass through those places people live, we snap a picture to take a moment in someone else’s life home with us.

Trotsky’s photos depict a parade of humanity over time. He snapped over 7,000 images. Twenty are in the exhibit.  The mix ranges from young couples to elderly couples and people standing alone, some leaning on a balcony rail, others absorbed in their electronic devices.  Their thoughts are secrets, and their lives one can only imagine.

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The photos that show rows and rows of staterooms and balconies remind me of when I would look at apartment buildings through the window of the Metro North train on the approach to Manhattan from upstate New York. There, the people were hidden from view by curtains and drawn shades of their apartment windows but I wondered who lived there in these rows and rows of high rises.

The version of life credited to what Trotsky captured is that perhaps cruises aren’t all one might hope to jazz up a life. David Foster Wallace wrote an essay that was published in Harper’s Magazine from which the title of the photo exhibit is inspired that holds this more depressing view. Well, Wallace committed suicide so perhaps that’s what Wallace saw on his cruise.

When I took a cruise from Venice to Greece and back with my two kids, age 17 and age 8 at the time, I had 9 days that were stress free. But, I like doing crafts and didn’t find it weird that I was the only adult at the table painting with kids. My son was enamored with the ship’s kids club so I couldn’t entice him to show up for this afternoon activity. My daughter was perhaps feeling more like Trotsky’s version of the cruise ship traveler since I did drag her away from her summer job and friends.  I was in the mood for a great time and I had one.

Our captured moment in our stateroom.

In the case of Trotsky’s exhibit, one can only speculate about what people were thinking as they watched Ft. Lauderdale slip by them as they headed out to sea. What were they leaving behind? What were they hoping to find on distant shores?

The exhibit runs through May 4, 2018

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein