Rugged coastal inlets, hidden islands and fishing boats dotted in crystal-clear water – where could we be but the Mediterranean?
Aerial photographer Tom Hegen visited this region to capture the showstopping beauty of this famous coastline and shares his shots on Instagram. But his photo series doesn’t just highlight the region’s beauty – he hopes his images are also read as a comment on the effects of overtourism on the area.
“The basic interest for me in my aerial photography is I try to show human altered landscapes, so how we as humans change and intervene in our environment,” Hegen tells CNN Travel.
“The idea was to explore a sort of integrated interaction of people with the landscape around the coastlines.”
The new series follows The Salt Series, Hegen’s aerial depiction of European salt farms – an artful but striking comment on how man-made activity disrupts the natural world.
The Mediterranean Series also illustrates the juxtaposition of man and nature, but in a more subtle way.
“Every year over 220 million people spend their holiday along the coast of the Mediterranean,” says Hegen. “Located in southern Europe, it is also one of the most crowded and least protected regions in the world.”
The spirit of Hegen’s series is applauded by Justin Francis of Responsible Travel – a self-described activist travel company that focuses on the issue of overtourism.
“Travel has always been one of the most visual industries, now perhaps more so than ever with Instagram,” he tells CNN Travel. “Photography is the best way to document change. It’s vital we do this as tourism is a largely unregulated and unmanaged industry with the ability to change destinations for better or for worse.”
Changing tourism habits
The parts of France, Spain, Greece and Italy that border the Mediterranean sea have long been tourist hotspots. In recent years, countries such as Morocco, Turkey and Croatia have also seen their visitor numbers soar.
According to the Mediterranean Growth Initiative (MGI), Morocco is the most popular North African destination on the Med. In 2015, the country had almost triple the number of tourist arrivals than 20 years earlier, in 1995.
The Mediterranean remains a popular tourist destination, despite the fact that the region has become the center of the European migrant crisis.
Hegen isn’t advocating that we stop vacationing along the Med.
He’s also aware that – thanks to the aquamarine intensity of the glistening water – many viewers will be searching for flights before they’ve even finished scrolling.
He wants his images to evoke “the color, mood, and texture of the Mediterranean” and hopes the viewer will be entranced by this aerial peek into paradise.
“Due to the density of countries, the Mediterranean is one of the most versatile places to experience European and other cultures,” Hegen adds.
“Even when it covers a comparable small place on earth, the landscape and culture can vary a lot.”
In fact, the region encompasses countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Hegen encourages vacationers to enjoy their trips along the Mediterranean coast. He just wants us to remember the impact our activity can have on the landscape when we’re traveling – and he presents this idea through photography.
“People get attracted by color and abstraction, but for me it’s also very important to bring a message across,” he says.
“For me the photos are basically an access to get the viewers’ attention to certain topics.”