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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

If it's must be Belgium

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign. – Robert Louis Stevenson

We live in an age of webcams, photography blogs, and Flickr.  We live in a world of Skyping and FaceTime.  Sometimes you can’t help but think: how can the world get any smaller?  Everything is at our finger tips, or so it seems.
Technology has progressed so quickly that it’s hard to stop and think of a time when we couldn’t connect through Wi-Fi networks across the world. At times, we seem to have lost our sense of wonder, and the pleasure of discovering something new or even going someplace new.

     Part of Charles Lang Freer's Series of Collected Sri Lanka Photographs.
Travel was also a way to uncover new knowledge about the world.  While scholars such as Ernst Herzfeld and Myron Bement Smith and art collector Charles L. Freer saw the world in an era where it was still a pastime of the elite, their goals were primarily the pursuit of information. 
In many ways, we have lost the idea of immersing ourselves in a place, forgetting  all else.  We are instantaneously connected, even overseas.  Travel used to be a way to alter one’s perspective on the world, now it is often a means to an end.  Business.  Bucket lists.  Buying materials. 
Certificate for passing over international dateline from James Cahill Papers.
Missionaries, such as Benjamin March, took the time to document their travels overseas in detail.  Mr. March created several handmade photography albums in the style of the then current Japanese photography albums.  In this day and age, we can take twenty photographs in the blink of an eye and all without stopping to savor the view we are seeing.  We don’t take the time to compose a shot before leaping forward.  Though there is a beauty to that, a different kind of beauty is being lost in our rush to post status messages and tweet our entire day to any who will listen.
Photographs from March's Around the World Trip Album.

Photographs taken in China as Part of the World Trip.

Perhaps the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle: we don’t want to lose our spontaneity, but at the same time, we don’t want lose all depth of thought, contemplation, by always wanting to run to the next exciting activity.  Contemplation can be exciting and rewarding, and even spontaneous, in its own right.
Travel is without a doubt a physical activity, but it is also an emotional and intellectual one.  Great memories are only created through a full body experience, a complete surrender to the landscape that surrounds us.
Highlights of the Freer Sackler Archives travel materials can be seen in The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia exhibit now on display in the Freer Sacker Gallery of Art. 

Lara Amrod
Freer|Sackler Archives

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