If you’re like me and you feel self-conscious about posting your 17th picture of a sunset or your dog but can’t stop the compulsion to photograph and post these pictures, (even when there’s literally nothing original about the content) you may need this:
It’s called the Camera Restricta, and although it’s still a prototype, it’s creating a buzz in both the tech and photography worlds. Like anything worth discussing, it’s both exciting and repulsing people, depending on the audience.
Wired Magazine showcased the camera in a recent story published this past September, the article introduced the world to Philipp Schmitt and his new invention. The Camera Restricta is built to hold your smartphone, and then taps into GPS metadata from sites like Flickr and Panoramio to see how many pictures have been snapped at the location you’re standing. It then counts how many pictures have been taken within 115 feet of where you are and if it sees more than 35 pictures taken at that spot in any direction (or from any angle), the camera’s shutter closes. Yes, I’m serious. The camera won’t let you take the picture.
Wired explains: “Want to snap a pic of the Eiffel Tower? Good luck, because it’s not gonna happen. But that gas station next to the Dairy Queen in Grand Island, Nebraska, is fair game.”
Contrary to the seemingly snarky undertones of that quote, Wired actually liked the camera and the idea in general. The casing on the camera is built to look like a bulky retro camera and features a screen in the back. This display shows the number of photos taken in a location, and when it inhibits you from taking a picture it plays a sound to alert you to imply to move along and find another subject of your photograph.That being said, there are people who definitely do not like the camera or the concept in general.
Some people don’t like the idea of censorship in photography. They also find flaws in the cameras design, saying that it can misinterpret the situation. Schmitt himself admitted that he has faced a lot of opposition to the camera, though he does concede that there are issues with the current design. Because the camera uses one GPS point as the sole reference for whether the camera takes a picture or not creates headaches. For example, by simply standing within 115 feet of a popular landmark like the Roman Colosseum that’s been photographed thousands of times, you won’t be able to take any pictures of anything in that location even if you’re not there to photograph the Colosseum. Maybe there’s some cool looking bench or some other person or object that you want to photograph, but if it’s near a popular landmark you’re out of luck. Going back to the concern of censorship, if Schmitt were to develop the technology further, people fear that government would re-purpose the invention to enforce censorship.
On the other hand, while the Camera Restricta could benefit from a more nuanced ability to judge the quality and originality of a picture, it could add an interesting twist to the visual world we create online. As people continue to share their personal photos on social media and build a vast, user-generated photo-library and photo-history of the world, technology like this functions as quality control. It also pushes the envelope to new horizons in the creative world. Imagine not being able to imitate any previous works of art, music riffs, or films. The art world would be pushed out of its comfort zone and into a new era of increased creativity.
Personally, I find the Camera Restricta to be a funny topic of discussion or a mild threat to be used on my friends for posting the same pictures over and over on their feeds. However, I feel that the arguments of censorship or misinterpretation have extreme validity in this case and would cause the Camera to be more trouble than it is worth. It was a good try in the push for increased creativity, but it is also worth noting that many successful works of art or music are imitations or slight alterations on previous stylings.