Tourist Snapshot: The Mediating Gaze of the Sydney Opera House

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ) Annual Conference, 2007, pp. 1 - 13
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There has already been much scholarly work produced about the Sydney Opera House, discussing the production of its architecture, historical and political context, and its symbolic meaning to Sydney. However little scholarly attention has been paid to the way this building is represented through tourist practices of photography. The essay attempts to bring an architectural perspective to the study of this tourist practice, which is usually addressed from the disciplines of cultural geography, sociology and anthropology. The essay considers the above questions by the analysis of some 300 images sourced from the photo sharing website Flickr ( It draws on John Urry's notion of the 'tourist gaze' which describes how places are structured and regulated by the visual. The essay then uses Jonas Larsen's work, which position tourist photography as a performance of social relations to argue that the activity of photographing the Sydney Opera House is more than a ritual of consumption, and can be seen as an embodied performance located at the intersection of space, experience and image.
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