This intriguing question is the title of a collection of essays by the late British travel writer Bruce Chatwin. I remember once reading the book while sitting on my luggage in a derelict airport in far western China, and wondering if passersby thought the title incongruous or humorous. For any traveler the question is worthwhile. But for travel photographers the question offers a key entree to improving your images.
The first few days at a destination, after all the hassle of planning and traveling, can be a letdown. Thousands of impressions crowd in on you. New sights and scenes and most of all many clichés, images you have seen and half-seen in other places halfway around the world. Making sense of it all, forming a photographic vision of the place, sorting through and deciding what to shoot, and what to ignore, is all part of the process of engagement. Asking “What am I doing here?” can focus the mind, sweep away the clichés and help you to see more simply and clearly.