Camera Restricta
September 15, 2015 12:50 PM   Subscribe

A disobedient tool for taking unique photographs Camera Restricta is a speculative design of a new kind of camera. It locates itself via GPS and searches online for photos that have been geotagged nearby. If the camera decides that too many photos have been taken at your location, it retracts the shutter and blocks the viewfinder. You can't take any more pictures here.
posted by steinwald (63 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
But how am I going to get that picture of my son balancing the Washington Monument on top of his head?
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:54 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Huh, this is the eighth consecutive marked scenic overlook I've been prevented from photographing today. I wonder why that is?"
posted by JHarris at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2015


What if all the other photos are terrible? Maybe mine would be better.
posted by limeonaire at 12:56 PM on September 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


Yeah, thanks, but I don't need my camera to be an elitist snob. Sometimes lots of people take pictures at a place because the place is fucking gorgeous.
posted by adamp88 at 12:57 PM on September 15, 2015 [31 favorites]


Hey, a piece of gear I don't automatically covet! My credit card thanks you.

I'll be the first to admit I'm an amateur photographer, but I like to think that even when I photograph features I've seen multiple pictures of before, I'll add something personal to the image - a slightly different view of it that makes it mine, or maybe just because I took it at a specific time of day and in a specific set of conditions that helps me remember that I was there. That said, I'm not the kind of person to get a picture of myself holding up that building in Pisa.

But regardless of all that, I think that if this isn't satire, it's a very passive-aggressive and mean idea. (or on preview, what adamp88 said)
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:03 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like the geiger counter approach. This is obviously not destined as a consumer product but as an art/expressive technology piece it is pretty clever and compelling.
posted by meinvt at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


And this is all based on the fact you have wireless connectivity where you are.
posted by Samizdata at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was just talking to a colleague last week about a similar camera idea. Ours was an app that takes your current GPS coords and the direction the phone is facing and instead of taking a picture with the camera just downloads the top-rated flickr photo taken from the same position, thus guaranteeing you the picture you deserve of whatever landmark you are visiting. At the Statue of Liberty on a grey day? Here is what it looks like with a glorious sunset, etc, etc.
posted by AndrewStephens at 1:07 PM on September 15, 2015 [20 favorites]


Great post, thanks!
posted by alms at 1:09 PM on September 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


The only thing that makes a photograph unique is the photographer. Location really doesn't matter all that much, from a formal perspective.

People have constantly misunderstood photography, since its inception, and they still do it seems. Photography doesn't capture images of places, it creates them. Two photographs of the same place can look entirely different, being made with different camera position, ISO, time of day or source of illumination, and many other things; likewise, two photographs of different places can look virtually identical. For that reason, this seems rather bizarre; like, what's the point exactly, besides taking on a gratuitous constraint?

I guess I could sort of see this as a statement about censorship perhaps, given the background on that legal initiative in Europe to designed to restrict images being made of "copyrighted buildings and sculptures," but that was rejected by the vast majority of EU parliamentarians.

So I'm not sure what the idea is with this. It's described as a restriction, but actually it could help you find locations where fewer photographs have been taken, which is something altogether different. It just seems absurd; cameras do so much for people now, nearly automatically, compared to what they could do ten or twenty years ago, but as if that still isn't enough, now you can get one that actually finds locations for you? Part of the fun of photography, for me, has always been finding places and then finding pictures in them. This 'camera restricta' thing seems like a lazy idea wrapped up in a dumb idea.

Apologies to Philipp Schmitt, who is not, himself, being called dumb or lazy.
posted by clockzero at 1:09 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sometimes, people take photos of events, where the location is merely incidental. Did you think of that, Snob-cam?
posted by davebush at 1:13 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Please issue these to the paparazzi on account of the world needs no more of that face you know the one I mean kthxbye
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:13 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


1) sel kameri not take photos & stop bad spys on great leder
2) ???
3) yakshemash profets!!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, it would actually be nice to know if other photos exist of a place—it would be useful for checking for "prior art," as it were, the way I can Google a phrase to find out whether anyone else has already coined it. But it would be super annoying if it stopped me from actually taking the shot.
posted by limeonaire at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2015


In the next version, it looks at your trip itinerary and decides how many tourists have visited the place, and if there have been too many it cancels your flight reservations.
posted by briank at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


Fantastic device! Can this same technology be applied to other ubiquitous "creative" works, like rom-coms that reuse the same plots, TV tropes that are hackneyed, rock songs that use I-IV-V chord progressions, and the fucking endless reboots of superhero movie franchises (I'm looking squarely at you, Batman and Spiderman)?
posted by mosk at 1:15 PM on September 15, 2015


Also, my town has too many mediocre taquerias (emphasis on "mediocre"). Can the same technology be used to do something about that?
posted by mosk at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2015


Can this same technology be applied to other ubiquitous "creative" works, like rom-coms that reuse the same plots, TV tropes that are hackneyed, rock songs that use I-IV-V chord progressions

But that chord progression just feels so real and true
posted by clockzero at 1:20 PM on September 15, 2015


I thought this game was called Ingress.

Also, when I was in Seattle I wanted to spray stencil "official photo spots" like Disneyland does or used to do on the ground all over the place based on just my day to day observations. There were dozens of spots where I could reliably predict that someone was going to see, say, the Space Needle, stop, and then take a picture. We're talking a square foot box on the ground.

I wouldn't even need flickr heat maps.
posted by loquacious at 1:23 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Idea: a tv that turns itself off if you ever turn it on.
posted by dng at 1:25 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll admit to being a photography snob- nobody needs another cameraphone shot of the Mona Lisa or the Rosetta Stone (it's a big slab of rock!), but this seems like a needlessly judgemental idea.
posted by BungaDunga at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2015


My brain already does this, kind of to my own detriment. Every time i'm traveling i'll see something and think of taking a picture of it, or of the view, or whatever and then go "that's so fucking boring, how many thousands of those do you bet there already are on instagram?" and keep walking. It gets me out of the mood of taking photos when i travel so much that i end up getting home and realizing i didn't take picture of funny or unique weird stuff i saw. Like silly things about the accommodations, or weird quirks about the process of moving around the city.

I would use this an app though. It would be cool to see if what, to me seems like an unusual view or something unique with how the light is hitting the area/object at that time of day and looks very cool/pretty/etc hasn't been done. There's a million pictures of the highline, but this show was very dependent on the lighting at sunset, and that exact perspective. "Photos taken within 15 feet of here" would be a very cool app i'd even pay money for. Doubly so if it used the camera and gyroscope and such to show different ones at different perspectives as you panned around. Sometimes i'll have seen several photos of something before, but none of them had the crop that's in my head, you know?

Also, when I was in Seattle I wanted to spray stencil "official photo spots" like Disneyland does or used to do on the ground all over the place based on just my day to day observations. There were dozens of spots where I could reliably predict that someone was going to see, say, the Space Needle, stop, and then take a picture. We're talking a square foot box on the ground.

This actually sounds like a fun snarky art installation idea, and i'm surprised no one has done it. In my entire life of living here i've never visited or known anyone from another place that was as pissy and snobby about tourists and transplants. And compared to most other big cities, we barely get them.

But for some reason no one here can shut the fuck about them or stop making fun of them. You're basically not a "real" seattlite to a lot of people if you don't hate ride the ducks, or any visible tourist/convention bar crawl, or whatever and it's really silly.
posted by emptythought at 1:44 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


* Camera useless in the following big cities:

New York
Los Angeles
Miami...
posted by Splunge at 1:46 PM on September 15, 2015


Great News North Dakota!
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:56 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


So because people take photographs at the top of the Empire State Building, that means you can't take any photos in the streets at its base or on any other floor...

I guess I could sort of see this as a statement about censorship perhaps, given the background on that legal initiative in Europe to designed to restrict images being made of "copyrighted buildings and sculptures," but that was rejected by the vast majority of EU parliamentarians.

That article seems poorly framed; note that it says
At the same time, an amendment that attempted to extend the freedom of panorama to all EU countries wasn’t passed, meaning certain EU countries will still be able to restrict the use of photos showing copyrighted structures in public places
Freedom of panorama already is restricted in places all over Europe and the rest of the world. Wikimedia Commons has removed outdoor photographs I've personally taken here in the U.S. because they contained a copyrighted sculpture in addition to the building or scene I was photographing.
posted by XMLicious at 1:58 PM on September 15, 2015


Maybe I take a photo of a location for the experience of taking a photo at that location. It doesn't have to be shown to anyone else. It doesn't even have to be kept later. Many other people have taken better photos at that location, but that doesn't change the fact that I haven't done it yet.
posted by yeolcoatl at 2:03 PM on September 15, 2015


...the camera just downloads the top-rated flickr photo taken from the same position thus guaranteeing you the picture you deserve of whatever landmark you are visiting.

We do this on most of our travels. It involves turning 180 degrees and buying a $0.25 postcard from the souvenir stand.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:05 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm working on something next-level:
"A disobedient tool for creating unique discussions, Camera Restricta Press Release is a speculative design of a new kind of art think piece. It creates itself as a press release about an artistic concept and propagates online in forums nearby in which it has not been discussed. If the press release decides that too many arguments about the true nature of art and functionality have been made on your blog post, it retracts the discussion and blocks the 'submit' button. You can't make any more comments here."
posted by komara at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you do photograph that.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:15 PM on September 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


If the camera decides that too many photos have been taken at your location, it retracts the shutter and blocks the viewfinder. You can't take any more pictures here.

No way something like that could ever be abused. Never ever never.
posted by Beholder at 2:18 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just seems like bad interaction design, "You can't do something you thought you could! Sorry! Thanks for buying our product!" Frustrating, and negative -- it prevents certain behaviors, but does nothing to encourage the behaviors you actually (presumably) want, i.e., photographing stuff that hasn't already been done to death.

The version of this concept that would actually require some brains to do would be the one that encourages creative photography, rather than just frustrating already-done photography. (And, which, btw, who says a photo taken in the vicinity of other photos can't be original?)
posted by grobstein at 2:20 PM on September 15, 2015


Man, I actually think this is a GREAT idea. (Not the censorship part. That's problematic. But still: hear me out.) Go to some picturesque place some time: it's filled with people holding up their goddamned phones to get a pic. Every time I see that it bugs the shit out of me: do you really think you're going to get a shot on your fucking Samsung that's better that the gazillion pics of the same damn thing already on the internet?

The whole point of photographing a place is to have a memory of it. But what's the memory if you're just viewing it through the phone? Put the camera away. Be there. Be at the place, in the moment. You want to remember it later? Find pics of that place on the internet. You need pics of you or your kid or your dog at the place? Do you really? Why? Have you forgotten what they look like? Or do you think you need proof that they were there, like someone is going to call you out about it? "PICS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN" I guess if there's some unique element to it (I was at Old Faithful and ran into Bill Murray) then fine. But otherwise, put the damn camera down.
posted by nushustu at 2:20 PM on September 15, 2015


The whole point of photographing a place is to have a memory of it. But what's the memory if you're just viewing it through the phone? Put the camera away. Be there. Be at the place, in the moment.

XKCD says it better than I can.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:33 PM on September 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


The day the UFOs actually do land on the Whitehouse lawn and your camera smugly tells you that location already over photographed is the day that camera goes in the trash.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:39 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


sparklemotion ha, yeah, that's pretty good. But I still think this is stupid as hell.
posted by nushustu at 2:41 PM on September 15, 2015


What if it did a reverse image search to guarantee your pic is reasonably unique?
posted by miyabo at 2:44 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, if you need to view a thing or event through a phone in order to pay better attention to it (as xkcd claims) then I would argue that perhaps you have some attention problems.
posted by nushustu at 2:46 PM on September 15, 2015


I don't understand this at all. When I'm travelling I take pictures of things that millions of other people have taken pictures of too - but what I end up with is a *sequence* of pictures that covers my trip. It's a great memory aid to roll through the pictures and remind myself what order we did things in and where we went. The famous landmarks act as bookmarks through the rest of the photos - it's not like I particularly expect an amazing sydney harbour bridge photo, but it anchors the photos of neat places around the rest of the city.
posted by xiw at 2:49 PM on September 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


The whole point of photographing a place is to have a memory of it. But what's the memory if you're just viewing it through the phone? Put the camera away. Be there.

I'll second XKCD's take. Taking a picture doesn't prevent me from being there in that place, at that moment. In fact, most of the time it makes me feel more appreciative of it, for having spent the time to search for a visual representation that, for me, reminds me of the presence of that space. Plus, after I've taken a few photos, I can still turn the camera off and just sit and enjoy the view to my heart's content.

Granted, I rarely use my phone's camera (if I'm going somewhere scenic I prefer to bring my dSLR along), and don't do selfies (well, if I do, I try to make myself a part of the landscape rather than the focal point).
posted by adamp88 at 2:51 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Without doing much research, I installed Google Goggles to read bar codes on my phone with default settings. Turns out it looks at every damn photo I take. If it recognizes it, I get a little Google notice with background information a couple seconds later. It's worked everywhere from the Cadillac Ranch to the Meridian Pylon in Indy to, well, every iconic scene in New York. I guess I should get around to deleting it and finding a substitute.
posted by klarck at 3:05 PM on September 15, 2015


You need pics of you or your kid or your dog at the place? Do you really? Why? Have you forgotten what they look like?

Spoken like someone who has never had either. Children and dogs grow and change quickly. So quickly. Some days, I really do mourn for the 4 year old version of my son who is lost in time, but whose company I really enjoyed. That photo I have of 7 year old him at Split Rock Lighthouse is completely unremarkable and even boring to a person who wasn't there, but it is soooo meaningful to me. The same for that picture of my dogs at the Grand Canyon. Why would you think there is value in denying people their snapshots ? That seems bizarre and weird.

I might suggest that instead of focusing on what others are doing, and fretting about how people who are not you are doing things you find valueless, you could spend more time enjoying and living in the moment you are sharing with those people.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:22 PM on September 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


I want a Harrison Bergeron camera that only allows you to take pictures that thousands of others have taken.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:38 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


There actually exists; people who create with no intention of sharing.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:48 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is one of the most literal-minded threads about a piece of art/"provocative design concept" I've ever seen.
posted by jjwiseman at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Moreso than banning cliched snaps I think the point is to get us thinking about how we are allowing intermediaries control of what we photograph. Anyone fancy a camera which doesn't function in a free-speech zone or if a police badge is visible? Because that's something we might one day be looking at.

(Hope I'm not doing the "waking up the sheeple" thing here)
posted by comealongpole at 4:34 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


oh pogo_fuzzybutt, so, so wrong. I have a bunch of kids. A bunch. I also have lots of pics of them. But here's the thing: the pics I have of them that are interesting? They're not generally standing in front of some national monument, just standing there, doing nothing, just posing in front of a thing.

I mean look. I never said GRAR PEOPLE SHOULDN'T TAKE PICS OF THEIR KIDS. I don't mind people taking pics of their kids in front of a lighthouse. You should take all the pics of your kids you can. I know I do. But try going to the Lincoln Memorial, or the Taj Mahal, or the Coliseum in Rome some time, and get a picture of those things without a bunch of strangers who are standing in front of it for the sole purpose of being able to record that they went there.

Next you're going to tell me that people talking loudly into their phones in restaurants is cool, because who am I to deny them their opportunity to talk to their friends/relatives/co-workers/whomever?
posted by nushustu at 5:59 PM on September 15, 2015


This is one of the most literal-minded threads about a piece of art/"provocative design concept" I've ever seen.


This is one of the most literal-minded implementations of a piece of art / "provocative design concept." It just seems really dull to me. Oh people photograph the same shit as everyone else, what if the camera prevented you from photographing the same shit as everyone else?

I mean, I think a couple of the takes in this thread are interesting, but basically this just feels like the conceptual art equivalent of paint-by-numbers.
posted by grobstein at 6:17 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, I think a couple of the takes in this thread are interesting, but basically this just feels like the conceptual art equivalent of paint-by-numbers.
Much conceptual art is more interesting if you take it too literally. Much ordinary stuff is more interesting if you take it too conceptually.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:25 PM on September 15, 2015


A frustration of mine is that conceptual art makes my intuitions about interesting art come apart from my intuitions about artists deserving credit.

With conceptual art, I may feel like this is kind of interesting but simultaneously I have no particular respect for the people who did this.

I respect execution. I respect originality. A conceptual art piece has no execution (give or take), and is very likely not original. If it happens to be interesting, it was quite likely thought up by someone else first (likely Borges).
posted by grobstein at 7:20 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


In my entire life of living here i've never visited or known anyone from another place that was as pissy and snobby about tourists and transplants. And compared to most other big cities, we barely get them.

I love this. Next time you're tempted to complain about tourists, try to imagine the condescending smirk on the face of the New Yorker or Washington DC resident who overhears you.
posted by straight at 8:07 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


"No one sees the barn," he said finally.

A long silence followed.

"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

"We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."

Another silence ensued.

"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.

He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.

"What was the barn like before it was photographed?" he said. "What did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it similar to other barns?"
White Noise, Don deLillo
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 8:34 PM on September 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Control-F for xkcd, and everyone's talking about the cartoon and not the irc bot.
posted by Jpfed at 8:42 PM on September 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is there a technology that prevents people from uploading six nearly identical shots to Facebook because they can't choose the best one?
posted by mazola at 10:08 PM on September 15, 2015


I'd also like to say my picture of the Statue of Liberty is the best.
posted by mazola at 10:09 PM on September 15, 2015


Lucy: That's literally the dumbest thing I ever heard.
Vitruvius: Please, Wyldstyle, let me handle this. That idea is just the worst.
posted by zardoz at 3:18 AM on September 16, 2015


I can't help but feel this is letting your camera be hipster for you. Being hipster by oneself is too mainstream, now?
posted by halifix at 3:27 AM on September 16, 2015


You need pics of you or your kid or your dog at the place? Do you really? Why? Have you forgotten what they look like? Or do you think you need proof that they were there, like someone is going to call you out about it?

Or maybe, y'know, the kid would LOVE to see a picture of herself and the (now-gone) dog on the family vacation 15 years later. Seriously. Not every photo is automatically destined for Facebook or Flickr.
posted by kimberussell at 7:06 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]




Next up, cameras targeted at birders that only let you use them if no one else has uploaded a picture of the bird they are pointed at.
posted by Mitheral at 8:29 AM on September 16, 2015


> Also, if you need to view a thing or event through a phone in order to pay better attention to it (as xkcd claims) then I would argue that perhaps you have some attention problems.

This may be true. I have rather intense ADHD, to the point that I feel like the guy from memento when it comes to short term memories. I was drawn to photography really early on - I realized that the act of composing a picture and photographing it was actually helping me focus my attention on an area, and see more things than I would otherwise see... and even if I never looked back onto the picture itself, the actual process itself helped solidify those memories in a way that I had a hard time doing otherwise.

It's very similar to how I've taken notes in my life - I write completely illegible notes when I'm in classes/meetings... Partly because I'm writing very quickly and trying to keep up, but mostly because it doesn't really matter how legible it is - I'll never read them. The act of committing words to paper is enough to solidify the memories.

Given that, I think the idea of this camera is fucking ridiculous, but it's not like it's mandatory or anything. If you want to be that special snowflake that only gets pictures in areas nobody else has, then be my guest. In the meantime, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, and enjoy the attempt to have a different take on these areas, or focus on things that aren't always the subject matter.

One of my favorite pictures from Madrid is at Puerta de Alcala, a crowded and touristed area that is very popular for photos... There was a man posing in the middle with his arms in the air in a pretty ridiculous pose, as his SO was taking a picture of him - and a TON of people photo-bombed him and posed IDENTICALLY behind him, making for an incredibly hilarious (to me) image.

Anyways, this is stupid because it would prevent that, or taking a picture of a poignant detail in an otherwise touristed and crowded area. Having a camera block you from taking a picture based on coordinates simply prevents you from having a unique take on a common area, which is something that a good photographer will excel at - and carries other risks as well. Any photographer worth their salt would NEVER use this - common sense would be able to tell them just as well that this is a heavily photographed area, and it's up to them to make it what they want.

This isn't a tool for improving photographs, its just a tool for those who just want to avoid any popular destination - which can easily be done without a fucking special camera, so I'd argue that it's a symbol for those in the know to identify themselves as "non-mainstream" amongst others who are aware of the same symbol.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:54 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


GOD DAMN IT PEOPLE IT'S ART
posted by blue t-shirt at 11:04 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


GOD DAMN IT PEOPLE IT'S ART

Sorry, that excuse has been used before so we'll have to prevent you from repeating it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:00 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


nushustu: " You want to remember it later? Find pics of that place on the internet."

For those of us with really bad memories we might not remember being there in the first place.

nushustu: "Go to some picturesque place some time: it's filled with people holding up their goddamned phones to get a pic. Every time I see that it bugs the shit out of me: do you really think you're going to get a shot on your fucking Samsung that's better that the gazillion pics of the same damn thing already on the internet?"

Sure. Because it's my shot precisely capturing the time, weather conditions, location and lighting at the time _I_ was there. All other images pale in comparison.
posted by Mitheral at 5:03 PM on September 18, 2015


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