German designer and artist Philipp Schmitt has introduced the Camera Restricta – a camera which refuses to take photos in over-photographed locations.
Described as a ‘disobedient tool for taking unique photographs’, the 3D-printed device uses a smartphone as the camera screen, and an embedded app which enables GPS tracking and generates audio effects. The open source application queries a Node.js server to look through popular photo-sharing platforms Flickr and Panaramio, scanning for geotagged images taken within a 35-metre radius. The app then translates the number of photos linked to that location into a ‘click’ sound effect using the Web Audio API.
“If the number is above a certain threshold, a photo cell mounted in front of the screen picks up a signal and transmits it to the microcontroller which then retracts the shutter,” explained Schmitt.
The viewfinder display also shows a large red ‘X’ preventing any further photography in the location.
“Camera Restricta could be a controversial tech product, promising unique pictures by preventing the user from contributing to the overflow of generic digital imagery,” the artist added. “It is a speculation on a possible new generation of cameras where the once obedient tool becomes an authority.”
Schmitt hopes that his design will be applied in practical use cases, such as stopping the photography of copyrighted buildings and art installations displayed in public places – “The camera could be funded or subsidized by public and private sector institutions with an interest in regulating photography in certain places.” He suggested that the software could be incorporated into just about any smartphone, without the need for the physical camera frame.
As well as notifying the user of a photography glut, it also provides an alert if the location is completely undocumented – perhaps, as Schmitt suggests, helping adventurous tourists avoid cliché spots and identify landmarks, scenery and other places of interest off the beaten track.