CRUISING INTO DISNEYLAND
I shot Cruising Into Disneyland in George Town, Grand Cayman. I came to the Island for escape at a resort, so George Town was a surprise. The native life of Grand Cayman provides a sleepy backdrop to expats and to the wealthy tourists that populate the high end resorts. But these visitors are contrasted yet more starkly by the masses off-loaded from cruise ships into George Town on a daily basis. The town presents a stage-set of almost cartoonish color and exaggeration, rows of souvenir shops and high-end jewelers, a facade against which visitors are herded through a zoo-like maze of gates and checkpoints to briefly descend and just as suddenly sail away. The visit seems to last only the blink of an eye, in which shops are suddenly packed, but the town never quite feels occupied.
The visual vocabulary of George Town immediately reminded me of the aesthetic of Disneyland. Its kitsch is simultaneously wonderful and bizarre. My undergraduate studies in Art History revolved around theories of postmodernism, and the idea that what we consider our reality is in fact simulation. George Town offers a hollowed out version of this simulation, empty more often than it is full, leaving behind only the shell of a town.
Tourism here isn’t unique. But as it is the island’s primary industry, Grand Cayman offers a sharp crystallization of the ideals, artificiality, and consumerism, that define tourist culture. I find a refreshing honesty to this place which on the surface doesn’t seem to purport to be much more than a tourist destination anyway, but also something sad and lonely about the hollow town that spends most of its time waiting for someone to arrive.