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Interview: Darren Garnick of Tacky Tourist Photos

Practice what you preach: Tacky Tourist Photos curators Darren Garnick (left) and Ilya Mirman (right) make a lonely Elvis impersonator's day.Darren Garnick is one of the creators of Tacky Tourist Photos. It's a self-explanatory title if there ever was one: Darren and his fellow curators gather submissions of the most shameless poses committed by travelers abroad -- an "art" that will undoubtedly make some travelers cringe, particularly ones who champion "authentic" experiences. But that raises other questions: Should we always seek to avoid what is "cliche" when we travel? What does it even mean to have an "authentic" experience? Darren addresses these questions as well as his site's famous family ties, his favorite user-submitted photos, and if a book deal lies in his future.

How did the idea for Tacky Tourist Photos come about?

A lot of people dread looking at other people's vacation photos. We find them to be fascinating, a window into the human soul. We love people who imitate the poses of statues, stick their heads inside wooden pictures of mermaids or embrace any costumed mascot they can find -- even if it is a corporate prop. Our childhoods are filled with these memories and we still can't resist old-fashioned roadside kitsch, like the World's Largest Roll of Dental Floss.

The type of photos you feature have a reputation of eliciting groans and eye-rolls from travelers. Why should we embrace the tacky?

If you are in Italy, how can you NOT want to pretend to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? We embrace it because it's fun, and that there is no shame in "acting like a tourist," as long as you aren't obnoxious about it and respect the local culture. We will leave the Obnoxious Tourist Photos project for another enterprising team. But we do occasionally gently mock the genre, such as this brilliant (and borderline offensive) shot of a guy pretending to hold up the "Leaning Miniskirt of Pisa."

I couldn't help but notice that one of your header photos appears to feature one of my favorite comedians, Eugene Mirman (Flight of the Conchords, "The Comedians of Comedy" tour). Is he a fan of your site? Did he submit any photos?

Eugene is the brother of TTP co-founder Ilya Mirman, so he's been generous with his photo contributions. His Tacky Tourist experiences include being trapped in a block of ice in Denmark (pictured above) and mimicking Israeli military heroes. We are hoping that Eugene can be our celebrity bridge to attract Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher, the Olsen Twins and other influential global icons.

Many sites in the same vein as yours, like Awkward Family Photos and Look At This F***ing Hipster, have become popular enough to garner their own book deals. Is your ultimate aim to have a "Tacky Tourist Photos" photo book on coffee tables worldwide?

Yes, we would love a six-figure book deal, too. In the meantime, we are actively seeking to partner with museums and art galleries for an interactive Tacky Tourist Photos exhibit. We did our first live show last year, and gave gallery visitors a chance to pose as the Mona Lisa!

What is, in your opinion, the most classically tacky tourist pose of all time?

I love the Four Corners site, the geographic point where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico converge, and watching people play Twister in four states at once. I also love the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan, where tourists float with newspapers without getting them wet and also cover their faces and bodies with dark black mud. If you've had fun at these locations, please send us your pics at tackytouristphotos@gmail.com.

What is your personal favorite photo on your site?

Pittsburgh artist Emily Berezin blew us away with her leap off an Egyptian camel (pictured right) and her playing dress-up with the Ecuadorian military. We're also partial to the constant goofing around at the nine Madame Tussaud's Wax Museums around the world. Stay tuned for an "I Married George Clooney" slideshow from Vegas complete with tourists of all shapes, genders and ages trying on the wedding dress (hope for this to be live on Monday morning, 3/28).

What is an underrated tacky tourist spot that we should be on the lookout for?

Your own backyard! We just got a phenomenal contribution from a Costa Rican native who found a wacky "turtle girdle" in a nature park a few miles from his house. Our best photos show people interacting with their touristy surroundings. Please think of us when you stumble across an offbeat photo-op and we'd also appreciate if you'd dig through your old family albums for TTP gems. Check out our submission guidelines here.

Many thanks to Darren for taking the time to answer our questions. Since we've got Darren's viewpoint, what's your take on tackiness when you travel? Do you actively avoid compromising poses or do you actively seek them out? Is it harmless fun or bothersome?

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Interview: Darren Garnick of Tacky Tourist Photos + wedding