World Photo Day 2016: This photographer turned his back on the world's most famous monuments

| 19 August 2016

From Stonehenge and Lenin's Tomb to the Great Wall of China and Auschwitz, Oliver Curtis has spent four years shooting different views of much-photographed sites

A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Colosseum, Rome, Italy© Oliver Curtis
Photographer Oliver Curtis was visiting the Pyramids of Giza, in Cairo, in 2012 when he turned away and looked back. The counter-view struck him: Curtis has spent the past four years trying to capture the more obscure, overlooked views of historic sites and monuments, seeing the seemingly mundane but photographically fresh alternative as an answer to the usual billboard shots of famous scenes.

“After walking around the base of the tomb I found myself looking back out in the direction I had arrived from, with the pyramid behind me,” says Curtis, who has been in demand from film-makers, takes inspiration from William Eggleston and admits an “unhealthy obsession” with the letterboxes of Venice.

“Immediately in front of me and under my feet, the sand of the desert was adorned with an assortment of human detritus; litter, pieces of rusted metal, a large rubber washer and a torn hessian sack.

“Then, in the mid-distance I saw a newly constructed golf course, its fairways an intense green under the late morning sun. I found this visual sandwich of contrasting colour, texture and form intriguing not simply for the photograph it made, but also because of the oddness of my position – standing at one of the great wonders of the world facing the ‘wrong’ way.”

A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
'Arbeit macht frei' Gates, Auschwitz, Poland© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
White House, Washington DC, USA© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Taj Mahal, Agra, India© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Statue of Liberty, New York, USA© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Vatican© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Reichstag, Berlin, Germany© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
North Korean JSA, DMZ, Panmunjeon, Korea© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Mona Lisa, Louvre, Paris, France© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Ministry of Internal Affairs, Place of the Revolution, Bucharest, Romania© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Mao Mausoleum, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Buckingham Palace, London, UK© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Great Wall of China, Mutianyu, China© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, USA© Oliver Curtis
A photo of a landmark taken by Oliver Curtis
Lenin's Tomb, Moscow, Russia© Oliver Curtis
  • Oliver Curtis: Volte-face is at the Royal Geographical Society, London from September 19 – October 14 2016. Follow @VoltefaceOC on Twitter and use the hashtag #Volteface.

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Three places to see photo shows

, Canterbury
Only in England: Photographs By Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr examines the close relationship between the work of these two important photographers and their fascination with the English. Until September 25 2016.

, Southampton
The forthcoming exhibition features photographs showing the rich and living tradition of terracotta art in India. September 1-29 2016.

, Edinburgh
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is the leading competition to celebrate and promote the very best in contemporary portrait photography from around the world. Also included as part of the new In Focus display within the exhibition is recent work by the award-winning South African photographer Pieter Hugo. Until October 2 2016.
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