Back in 1993 Edinburgh Tourist Board and the camera company Fuji collaborated to develop the Phototrail which gave visitors to the city a visual indication of 22 locations that gave iconic vistas of Edinburgh. You can see the original locations on a handy Google Map overlay although it does take a bit of hunting to find some of the plates and some have actually been removed following road-works and never replaced.
The introduction of the Phototrail possibly contributed toward the New Town and Old Town of Edinburgh being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995 and contributed toward the historic city becoming a massive tourist draw that brings millions of tourists each year to spend their various currencies in our shops.
I am a small business owner in Edinburgh and I profit from the amazing heritage that the city offers through running photography workshops. Over the four years the workshops have been operating though there has been a worrying trend which is making our city less photogenic through the addition of street furniture; roadworks moving traffic in the direction of roads that can’t cope, and parking changes that impact the aesthetic of the city. I now believe that we are approaching a point where visitors will start to question if they are coming to a city steeped in history or an elaborate car park.
I do recognise that as visitors come into the city that they need to move around and the various shops on the Royal Mile, Victoria Street etc. need to be re-stocked but with some simple traffic management this could be done outside of the hours when people will be walking the streets – how about a loading window from 6am to 8am and then the streets are cleared for tourists to enjoy?
However, there is a more radical action that Edinburgh could take that would increase tourism and give us some photographic pride in our city that would help advertise us at very little cost to the world. Edinburgh is renowned for its Festival month in August when the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place. Fewer people know that there is also the Science Festival in April, Film Festival in June, Jazz Festival in July as well as the Christmas and Hogmanay periods through November to January so we are a festival city. There are gaps though, March or October, for example, has probably the best light quality of the year and is one of the fallow festival months.
This is where photography could fill a gap and increase visitors as well as restore the benefits of the Phototrail from 1993. Edinburgh should have a weekend (or even better a week) where we restore the Phototrail sites to a state where they can become photographic or artistic wonders and attract people who enjoy taking, drawing, sketching, painting to enjoy the city free of traffic and distracting street furniture.
I would love to get support from the photography and artist communities to petition Edinburgh Council and seek to reinvigorate and update a photo-trail of the city. To support this there should also be the introduction of an official period where we can capture Edinburgh’s updated photo-trail at its best, traffic free, free of annoying yellow signs advising that parking won’t be allowed over the period and free to take beautiful photographs of our city that can be shared and enjoyed.
Who would support me?