Holiday snaps: say cheese and tomato

By Joe Joseph, July 30, 2009

It’s holiday time, the season when traditionally we activate the “out of office” response on our email and jet off to spend a fortnight dressed only in a pair of Speedos the size of a postage stamp — on account of our budget airline wanting to charge us £983 at check-in on top of the price of the £17 plane ticket if we turn out to be the sort of crazy travellers who might want to take any actual luggage on holiday with us.
But I have just returned from a fortnight in France and feel bound to confess to some aberrational tourist behaviour: I visited many local food markets during my stay there but — are you ready? — I didn’t take a single photograph of fruit or vegetables.

Visiting food markets and photographing the fruit seems to be a purely holiday-related pastime. Possibly this behaviour is heat-induced. You can walk through the fresh produce aisles of your local Waitrose without ever slapping your forehead and hissing, “Darn it! I can’t believe I forgot my camera!”

You can stroll the length of your local market, past pyramids of bright oranges, and never once find yourself framing your two palms — one facing toward you, the other facing away — into that shape that improvises a rectangular window like a camera viewfinder, the way film directors do when they’re assessing the potential of a celluloid image. You can spend all Sunday in Golders Green without ever itching to photograph a tray of bagels.

But the minute people see a street market abroad, they take photos of tomatoes. It’s a mystery that cameras — alongside their settings for “daylight”, “flash”, “portrait” and “landscape” — don’t also have one for “apricots”. The natives look at these visitors like they’re morons. But foreigners act the same way when they visit markets in London.

Then, a fortnight later, the tourists return home with their holiday booty.

Returning Tourist: “Harry, have we shown you our holiday photos?”
Harry: “These look like peaches.”
RT: “Gee, thanks. I’m no Cartier Bresson, but I guess they’re not bad.”
Harry: “No, I mean they are actual pictures of peaches.”
RT: “But what peaches, Harry! Would you like to see my aubergine shots?”
Harry: “Haven’t you got any photos of famous landmarks? Or of people?”
RT: “Sure I have! This is of me at the casino in Cannes.”
Harry: “You play blackjack in Speedos?”

Joe Joseph is a writer for The Times

Last updated: 4:13pm, July 30 2009