F or many of us who love to travel, the images we capture on our trips are the vessels into which we pour our memories. Pictures become keepsakes of our adventures that we can choose to revisit during moments of reflection or escape. Looking at them is akin to finding an old box of matches from a restaurant visited abroad, a smooth stone collected on a favorite beach, or having a taste of a favorite childhood pastry (hello Proust’s madeleines). Travel imagery is often used to narrate our trips to loved ones, and our pictures have become (especially with the growth of social media) both guidebooks and maps for friends and strangers alike who find inspiration for their own trips in our shared travels.
When the paintings from Sotheby's Art of Travel auction were made, travel was not as easily accessible or common as it is today. The locations the travelers who made these paintings stopped to capture may have been pre-selected by guides, or, more likely, simply places the artists felt compelled to stop and unpack their brushes.
Over a billion people travel by choice each year now and the photographs we take today tell a complex story when viewed alongside the perspectives of the artists who captured these same landscapes and travel images years ago. Comparing images made today with those painted or photographed at the same spots 50, 100, and 200 years ago, we are confronted with some compelling questions that face all leisure travelers today. Click above to explore 7 examples drawn from the sale, alongside modern photographs of the same destinations.
Emily Nathan is the founder of Tiny Atlas and author of My Tiny Atlas:Our World Through Your Eyes with Penguin Random House.