Friday, September 11, 2015

Camera Restricta Is A Dumb Idea

I just read that photographer Philipp Schmitt invented a new camera. Cool! What's different about this camera? If too many other people have captured photographs in the vicinity it won't open the shutter. Not cool! It is called the Camera Restricta.

The idea is that people often photograph the same thing from the same spot. There are millions of look-alike pictures out there. To prevent you from creating another doppelganger image the camera won't operate in heavily photographed locations. It does this by searching the internet for geotags using your cell phone.
Glacier Point Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California
I wouldn't have been able to capture this image if I had been using the Camera Restricta.
The reason this camera is dumb is that it doesn't matter how many times a location has been captured, it is possible to create unique images. If you took this camera to, say, Yosemite National Park, it wouldn't work (and not just because of the spotty cell phone coverage). The place has been photographed from every angle imaginable, yet every year photographers manage to capture something completely new and unique while inside the park.

Why is this? Because they have photographic vision. They're creative. They understand the decisive moment. This camera understands none of that.

You could be in a never-before-captured location and still create boring, cliched images. Whether or not the Camera Restricta lets you photograph has no bearing on if the image will be original or not. An image will be original only if the photographer creates it that way. It's up to the photographer to use his heart and mind to do so no matter the location.

Now I understand that the Camera Restricta isn't really a serious camera. It's commentary. Society is unoriginal. People take photos without thinking. Over saturation. I get it. Yet, at the same time, it misses the point. This camera does nothing to change what it is meant to change. All it would do, assuming that it catches on (which it won't), is move the focus from one subject to another. The photographs would remain equally unoriginal.

What would bring about the change that Philipp Schmitt wants is an understanding of what's important in photography. If people understood photographic vision, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Now I wish Philipp Schmitt all of the financial success in the world. I don't want to see anyone fail. I hope he earns a good profit from his invention. But I won't be buying the Camera Restricta because it is a dumb idea.

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