Picture Snapping; Paying the Piper
Visiting the temples of Angkor Wat was glorious. Looking at things other than the ruins – such as the tourists – was also fun.
These temples have become a major international attraction and as I walked around, I heard guides explaining the sights to their groups in just about any major language; from English, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Hindi, to French, German, Spanish and Japanese. Though the languages may be different, each, and every group does exactly the same thing: snaps pictures of the ruins, of themselves in the ruins, of their friends and children in the ruins. At times, it looks like all anyone is really interested in is making sure they have a picture; proof that they have been here.
Of course, this is not unique to Angkor. This can now be observed anywhere and everywhere we go. See, pose, snap and post right away. I have nothing against this, even though it is true that we all spend less time considering things; looking at what angle or for the best light to take the picture in. With digital camera there is really no economic cost – just snap away.
We tend to take most of our pictures in areas that have deemed to be of some importance or beauty; be it the natural world, historical sites, museum and so on. But to keep these places beautiful, to conserve and protect them, costs money. For the authorities dealing with them, there is never enough and, as a result, often there is degradation. This is particularly true for poor countries such as Cambodia.
So watching the masses snapping away, I thought why not put a price, a tiny price, on each picture taken. Those funds would go into a conservation fund. Why not create a system where, say one cent per picture is donated to such a fund; set up to conserve the natural world or sites like the Angkor temples. For example, if you are like me and took about 200 pictures than an automatic payment would be applied to my credit card. I am sure such a system could be established with a little effort.
I know that most people will say that we pay entry fees, we pay for the guides, the tuk-tuks, etc and that this already helps the local economy and so on. All true. But I know that local conservation authorities have a very hard time raising sufficient funds. Others will immediately say that, in any case, the money raised through this system will never reach the places it is really needed – whether because of corruption or bureaucracy and, on the whole, they are probably partially right. But in such poor countries as Cambodia, even a little trickle can make a difference.
In any case, what I am trying to say is that we all love national parks, historical sites, archeological sites and so on and these places, more than ever, need protection, conservation and financial assistance. These funds, in our modern world, are not available. Since we seek these places out and have the funds available to be able to go and enjoy them, I would like to think that most of us would not mind making such a small contribution.
Snap your own pictures of Angkor Wat in 2015 on the Bamboo Road Bicycle Expedition.