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Nancy Pettinicchio   September 23, 2014

Transculturation: The Reevaluation of Tourism

TRANSCULTURATION: Cultural change induced by the introduction of elements of a foreign culture.

TRANSVALUATION: Evaluation by a new standard or principle, especially one that varies from conventional standards.

This summer, I spent a month in Florence to study Italian. Although Florence eventually started to feel like home, I remained a tourist in one of the most touristic countries in the world. This became even more apparent when I spent a day in Rome and Venice, away from my "home" in Florence. 

Throughout my trip, I photographed hundreds of tourists as well as locals, all of whom were in the same physical space as I yet most probably in a different "mental space." Despite our cultural differences as individuals from all around the world, I began to question the universal norms of tourism, such as posing for an innumerable amount of photos or capturing every angle of a foreign country's landmarks.

Consequently, tourism began to fascinate me. I studied my own behavior as well as that of other tourists more closely. Being surrounded by thousands of visitors suddenly made me feel like I was in this transitional or “in-between” world; everyone was similar to me, for we were all experiencing a place that was foreign—yet in the end, we were all strangers who faced separate realities. For the time being, we coexisted, and we inevitably shaped each other’s environments as much as the Italian landscape that we had come to discover.

As I continued to reflect on my time in Italy, I realized that I had experienced the lifestyle of a tourist rather than that of an Italian. I befriended tourists, lived with tourists, studied with tourists. I was addressed as a tourist in restaurants, malls, and markets. My time in Italy was definite. Therefore, as attached to Florence as I was and always will be, I experienced Italy as a temporary guest, surrounded by thousands of my own kind.

I am passionate about photography, and I hoped to capture a fresh and thought-provoking series of images while travelling to Europe. Italy is a place filled with photographers, however, and foreigners snap countless photos of the country’s beauty on a daily basis. I wanted to find more than just souvenirs of a given place at a given time. Although I was originally anticipating shooting landscapes, I became more interested in shooting portraits––or more precisely, portraits of strangers, including locals but most often tourists. Usually, I rushed to take a photo of someone without them noticing, but the subject occasionally looked straight into my lens, paused, and continued on with what they were doing.

My month in Florence was without question the most enriching experience of my life. The way of life in Italy transformed my perspective, and observing the people there made me question my own behavior as a Canadian. Although I do not know where my next destination will be, I look forward to once again joining the touristic culture that I have just begun to discover.

About Nancy Pettinicchio

Nancy is a Cinema/Video/Communications student with a passion for still and moving images. She is inspired by a variety of disciplines and wishes to explore both digital and fine arts as well as philosophy within her future projects.

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  • Mathieu L.

    Mathieu L.

    October 8, 2014

    Hey Nancy these clichés are sweet! I’m glad I got a special preview at school :’) Awesome work as always!

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    Cristina Esposito

    December 6, 2014

    I really enjoyed reading about your experience in Italy and I am absolutely jealous that you had the opportunity to live and learn in such a beautiful country for a month. Having visited these Italian landmarks myself, you made me realize how much of a tourist I probably looked like when visiting such places like the coliseum. You made an excellent point on how being a tourist gives you a connection with other tourists, as I too noticed that feeling every time I travel somewhere new. We may be from different countries, but it is the interest in the foreign culture, landscape, and history of the country that brought us together. My favourite picture of yours has to be the one of the close up shot on the woman dressed in pink on her iPhone. To me, she embodies the stereotypical middle class tourist as she wears a big sun hat, gigantic sunglasses, carries a tiny bag, and wears comfortable shoes all while probably looking up something on her phone to see what’s in the area for her and her family to visit. While looking at all of your pictures in general, the majority of tourists’ fashion sense matched that of the woman in pink (comfortable running shoes and clothes, light bags, etc), which, in my opinion, adds to the classification of the universal norms of a tourist you spoke about. In all, what you brought up in your article was interesting to think about and now leaves me wanting to travel back to Italy. Well done!

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    Yasmine Sindi

    December 6, 2014

    Overall, I truly enjoyed reading your article as you managed to capture the reality of what it’s like being a tourist. Moreover, it was easy to connect with your experience, as we have all been in the same shoes at one point in our lives. Being a tourist is something everyone and everywhere has experienced. My favorite picture would have to be the one where it seems like a family (a daughter, mother and father) seem quite lost and are looking for a specific place on the map. In addition, I feel like this picture accurately exhibited what it is like to be a typical tourist. In my opinion, the family embodies a clichéd family in a foreign country trying to find their way around the town. Throughout the exhibit, most of these pictures include a tourist with an electronic device (phone). This particular image of tourists being submerged into the electronic world is quite a sad one. Makes one realize, the importance of letting go and letting life happen. All in all, truly loved the idea of this article and the way you managed to capture the reality of it all, well done!

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    Alana D'Amico

    December 7, 2014

    I really enjoyed reading this article and I found it very interesting. It allowed me to look at tourism and travelling in a different perspective then I usually do. It made me reflect on my last trip to Italy which was a little bit different because I stayed in a small town for the most part. When I arrived in this small town, I stuck out like a tourist and most of the other teenagers there would call me “the American”. However, towards the end of my trip I was no longer a tourist to them and became I became one of them. I did travel to most of the tourist places and now I realize how much a tourist I must have looked like taking pictures of nearly everything that I saw. I really enjoyed all of the pictures you took while on your trip, but my favourite picture is the picture of the family holding a map. I really liked this picture because I find that it truly captures the idea of travelling and being in a foreign country where you can explore and need to be able to orient yourself.
    In all, I really like the different perspective that you presented on travelling and being a tourist and I really liked the pictures that you took. Well done!

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    Alicia Dayan

    December 7, 2014

    Nancy Pettinicchio’s article on Transculturation was very interesting as I love to travel as well and can picture myself taking “selfies “in every corner of Italy!
    Having the opportunity to travel to different countries allows you to be opened to living other cultures and experiencing different life styles. Though these experiences are temporary, by taking pictures of these beautiful landmarks gives you the opportunity to relive those incredible moments every time you look back at them.  Come to think of it, when I visited Polland last year in the March of the Living program, I was amazed at all the different building structures in Warsaw and my head was always facing upwards trying to take it all in… I also was living the life of a typical tourist!
    A tourist is a tourist in every country…they all “look the same and act the same”. They will visit historical places, walking in their comfortable shoes, befriend other tourists and what better way to capture all these special moments than with photography! As Nancy would say, ‘Tourists are a perfect target for a perfect picture!”

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