It's behind you! Unique photos reveal what tourists can see if they look the other way

By Becky Pemberton

While many can instantly recognise the Taj Mahal in Agra, if you turn around you can see tourists milling around white benches attempting to take the iconic snap. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis
While many can instantly recognise the Taj Mahal in Agra, if you turn around you can see tourists milling around white benches attempting to take the iconic snap. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis

Many of the world's most famous monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and Stonehenge are instantly recognisable - thanks to the millions of images of them that have been published online and in books.

But when visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, photographer Oliver Curtis turned away and was fascinated with the less documented views around it, that rarely make holiday albums.

While many turn to face the captivating Christ the Redeemer statue, if you turn around you can witness the spectacular scenery of Rio de Janeiro. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis
While many turn to face the captivating Christ the Redeemer statue, if you turn around you can witness the spectacular scenery of Rio de Janeiro. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis

Over four years he has turned his back on the most over-photographed sites in the world to create a fascinating collection that promotes a new perspective on tourism.

Curtis' project Volte-face seeks to create a narrative on the quiet history and stories that surround famous attractions such as the Mona Lisa.

His unique images are a far cry from stereotypical holiday snaps with sights of heavily travelled streets, crowded pathways and areas of construction captured.

What makes his photographs so striking is that, devoid of their famous landmarks, they look distinctly unremarkable and like they could be taken anywhere.

The Great Wall of China snakes its way across the historical northern borders of the country. Less impressive are the storage areas that lie at its base. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis
The Great Wall of China snakes its way across the historical northern borders of the country. Less impressive are the storage areas that lie at its base. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis

Curtis hopes his work also sheds light on the people who work on the sites, such as cleaners, security guards, cleaners and office guards - who may have lost their awe for their place of work thanks to their daily exposure to the hotspots.

Oliver Curtis decided to instead look at a sleepy park that can be found nearby Washington DC's The White House. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis
Oliver Curtis decided to instead look at a sleepy park that can be found nearby Washington DC's The White House. Photos / iStock, Oliver Curtis

Speaking about his first visit to Giza, Curtis comments: "After walking around the base of the tomb I found myself looking back out in the direction I had arrived from, with the pyramid behind me.

While Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow's in Red Square attracts many tourists, Curtis captured areas of construction nearby. Photo / Oliver Curtis
While Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow's in Red Square attracts many tourists, Curtis captured areas of construction nearby. Photo / Oliver Curtis
Curtis hopes his work sheds light on the people who work on the sites. Pictured is the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Photo / Oliver Curtis
Curtis hopes his work sheds light on the people who work on the sites. Pictured is the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Photo / Oliver Curtis

"Intersecting the horizon under a veil of smog lay the city of Giza. Immediately in front of me and under my feet, the sand of the desert was adorned with an assortment of human detritus; litter, pieces of rusted metal, a large rubber washer and a torn hessian sack.

"Then, in the mid-distance I saw a newly constructed golf course, its fairways an intense green under the late morning sun.

Rome's Colosseum is one of the most photographed spots in the city, but Curtis sought to highlight the workers that make their living just feet away. Photo / Oliver Curtis
Rome's Colosseum is one of the most photographed spots in the city, but Curtis sought to highlight the workers that make their living just feet away. Photo / Oliver Curtis


The Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico is an ancient wonder, but few draw attention to the well-travelled land around it in their photographs. Photo / Oliver Curtis
The Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico is an ancient wonder, but few draw attention to the well-travelled land around it in their photographs. Photo / Oliver Curtis

"I found this visual sandwich of contrasting colour, texture and form intriguing not simply for the photograph it made but also because of the oddness of my position; standing at one of the great wonders of the world facing the 'wrong' way."

As soon as many tourists enter the Louvre in Paris they head straight for the Mona Lisa. Curtis chose to capture tourists appreciating other artworks. Photo / Oliver Curtis
As soon as many tourists enter the Louvre in Paris they head straight for the Mona Lisa. Curtis chose to capture tourists appreciating other artworks. Photo / Oliver Curtis


Crowds of tourists gather to take images of the Mao Mausoleum in China, as captured by Curtis in his collection Volte-face. Photo / Oliver Curtis
Crowds of tourists gather to take images of the Mao Mausoleum in China, as captured by Curtis in his collection Volte-face. Photo / Oliver Curtis

Volte-face will be published by Dewi Lewis later this year, featuring an essay by Geoff Dyer. It is also in an upcoming exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society in London during September 19 - October 14, 2016.

- Daily Mail

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