Created by Philipp Schmitt, Camera Restricta is a camera that 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.
Algorithms are already looking through the viewfinder alongside with you: they adjust settings, scan faces and take a photo when you smile. What if your grin wasn’t the only thing they cared about?
The project is a comment on censorship and generic (tourist) photography. It also creates a sensing ability for this invisible data by translating it to acoustic feedback that reminds of a geiger counter. But instead of warning against radioactivity each clicking noise represents a photo detected nearby. The noise alerts of “infested” i.e. frequently photographed places and sometimes reveals photos in surprising locations. Searching for the source, you might discover famous buildings, great scenery or simply something like a fitness center — a place where people go to upload selfies.
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. Think of it like trying to scan a bank note with your flatbed scanner at home: it doesn’t work, software prevents it. Shouldn’t this be just a tool?
The camera prototype consists of a 3D-printed body. It houses electronics to move the shutter as well as a smartphone that handles GPS and data connection, generates the sounds and doubles as the camera screen. The phone runs a web app that queries a Node.js server Phillip built to query Flickr and Panoramio for the number of pictures nearby. The app (open source) 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 microcontroller which then retracts the shutter.
See also Buttons by Sascha Pohflepp (circa 2006)