Photographer Roger Minick has been working on the Sightseer series since the ’70s. He was first drawn in by the audio-avalanche of clicks and the bustle of tourists scampering to get a shot of themselves at Yosemite National Park’s Inspiration Point overlook; the crowds of people mugging in front of canyons and springs just to prove that they’d been there, in that very spot. He realized that these visitors, with their Hawaiian shirts and their tourist regalia of fanny packs and giant smiles, were just as interesting as their landmark backdrops. After traveling the US and snapping photos of sightseers at hundreds of other overlooks, Minick also came to realize that what he was capturing was something much bigger than than the desire for the perfect photo opp. It was something deeply engrained in the American psyche.
“I would witness this most dramatically when I watched first-timers arrive at a particularly spectacular overlook and see their expressions become instantly awestruck at this their first sighting of some iconic beauty or curiosity or wonder,” Minick writes. “After seeing this happen innumerable times, I began to compare what I was seeing to the religious pilgrimages of the Middle East and Asia, where the pilgrims are not just making a trip to make a trip, or simply to return home with some tangible piece of evidence that they were there — the snapshot — they have instead come seeking something deeper, beyond themselves, and are finding it in this moment of visitation.” Spotted by our friends at American Suburb X, check out a few turn-of-the-century sightseers in our slideshow.