Surreal photos visualize the $7.6 trillion tourism industry

Tourism accounts for 8% of global emissions. Marcus Lyon’s photographs satirize the enormous environmental impact of vacationing.

Across the globe, people spend $7.6 trillion dollars on tourism every year–a quest for an escape from boredom, and the subject of a project called Timeout by British artist Marcus Lyon. Timeout is full of seemingly impossible aerial landscapes, featuring endless lines of yachts in infinite ports and hundreds of airplanes taxing through never-ending airport terminals. The stitched-together photos visualize the impact of our obsession with entertainment on the planet.


“The Timeout series was born out of my fascination with our global mass behaviors,” Lyon says via email. “I had been researching and recording the actions of [all kinds of humans] for a while but I felt there was a fascinating body of work to be made on the [approximately] billion of us who have found shelter, safety, and sustenance.” With all our basic needs met, that billion has turned to travel, tourism, and other forms of escapism that form the basis of the series.

Timeout I–Marina Del Rey, California, USA. [Photo: Marcus Lyon]
Lyon points out that our vacations are affecting Earth just like any other industrial activity–one recent study reported that it’s responsible for as much as 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike industries that satisfy basic human needs, tourism caters to pleasure alone. “Timeout explores our actions in a world where the search for safety, sustenance, and shelter has taken on a secondary role, and instead we have turned to another basic human instinct: exploration,” he writes.

Before making any of the images in the series, Lyon says he conducts deep visual research and reading. Then, once he has a good idea of what he wants to portray, he carefully stitches together photographs taken from a helicopter to assemble them in his gigantic panoramas. Seamless execution and philosophical underpinnings aside, the images are striking simply for their enormity and complexity. You can check out Lyon’s work here.


About the author

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce and a contributing writer at Fast Company.