Elevating the family snapshot into the realm of fine art, photographer Roger Minick catalogs the hurried and delirious crowds of tourists visiting American landmarks in the early 1980s. For Sightseer, Minick and his wife traveled from site to site in search of eccentric characters posed against such destinations as the majestic Yosemite National Park, historic Yellowstone National Park, or the austere gabbro walls of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
While teaching at the Ansel Adams Workshops at Yosemite, Minick was taken by the hoards of sightseers, the transient families that seemed to emerge onto the landscape and then vanish once they had captured the perfect, smiling snapshot. His first trip around the country was chronicled in black and white, but when he found that ineffable tourist weirdness missing from the sober gray tones, he made the trip again in 1980-1981, this time with color film in hand. Most of the shots were stolen over the course of a few minutes, in the brief and precious moments hurried travelers afforded him.
Minick’s body of work at times comical, documenting the absurd thrills and anxieties of his subjects, but throughout Sightseer, his gaze remains reverent and gracious. Minick suggests that tourist journeys are akin to religious pilgrimages, offering a meaningful connection to our shared American history. Where the tourist snapshot has the potential for egotism, evidencing the significance of a particular person’s presence before an iconic destination, Minick’s photos speak to the collective “we,” and as strangers from decades past, his subjects represent a larger, more essential human experience with the sublime.
Woman with Hawaiian Shirt at Monument Valley, UT 1980
Girls in Matching Pink at Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT 1980
Woman Photographing at Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park, MT 1981
Woman with Binoculars at South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ 1980
Photographing Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, WY 1980
Uncle & Nephew at Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT 1981
Couple at Monument Valley, UT 1980
Mother & Son at Minerva’s Terrace, Yellowstone National Park, WY 1980
Couple at Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT 1980
Couple with Matching Shirts, Crater Lake National Park, OR 1980
Children at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, WY 1980
Arriving at Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ 1980
Women with Red Sweater at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, CA 1981
Couple Taking Polaroids, Crater Lake National Park, OR 1980
Sleeper Tour Bus at Goulding, AZ 1980
Woman with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park, CA 1980