Camera Restricta is a camera that locates itself via GPS and searches online for photos that have been geotagged nearby.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than trying to navigate the streets of a city or make your way through a popular attraction filled with tourists snapping pictures. Not to mention, a simple Google search will reveal that the same monuments and landmarks are often photographed multiple times.
That’s why Philipp Schmitt has developed a new type of ‘smart’ camera that determines its location via GPS and then combs through online photos that have been geotagged in the same place. If the aptly named Camera Restricta decides that too many images have been taken at your location, it retracts the shutter and blocks the viewfinder, disabling you from taking any more pictures there. Ideally, this project will inspire you to venture off from the well-beaten path and capture some unique shots.
Not only a criticism of modern-day photography, the project was designed as a censorship tool for “disobedient objects.” Camera Restricta offers feedback in two ways. The back of the device will physically display both how many pictures have been taken in a location and whether photos are “allowed.” Aside from that, the clever smartphone case translates the data into acoustic feedback that’s reminiscent of a Geiger counter. But instead of warning against radioactivity, each clicking noise represents how many photos are detected nearby. The more you hear, the less likely you’ll be able to take a picture in that ‘touristy’ spot.
“The European Parliament recently voted against a controversial proposal that threatened to restrict the photography of copyrighted buildings and sculptures from public places. The camera could be funded or subsidized by public and private sector institutions with an interest in regulating photography in certain places. It’s censorship that doesn’t happen after, but before a picture was taken,” Schmitt explains.
The camera is comprised a 3D-printed camera body that houses a smartphone and a few electronic components, all controlled by an ATTiny85 that moves the shutter. Additionally, the phone itself provides the GPS and data connection, generates the static sounds and doubles as the display revealing a ‘yes’ or ’no’ (‘nein’) when deciding to take a pic.
The phone runs a web app that queries a Node.js server that Schmitt built to browse Flickr and Panoramio photos within a 115-foot radius. Based on its findings, the app synthesizes the camera sound in real-time 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 ATtiny85 which then retracts the shutter.
“The project is not only a piece about censorship in a policital sense, but also questions our photographic practice. With digital photography displacing film, taking pictures has essentially become free, resulting in an infinite stream of imagery,” the Maker concludes. “Camera Restricta introduces new limitations to prevent an overflow of digital imagery. As a byproduct, these limitations also bring about new sensations like the thrill of being the first or last person to photograph a certain place.”
Intrigued? Head over to the project’s official page, and be sure to catch it in action below!