Camera Restricta Ensures Original Photography

Proper documentation is important, and when traveling it is commonly achieved via photography. Redundant documentation is often inefficient, and the Camera Restricta — in a commentary on the saturation of photographed landmarks and a recent debate on photographic censorship in the EU — aims to challenge the photographer into taking unique photographs.

Camera Restricta has a 3D-printed body, housing a smartphone for gps data, display and audio output, while an ATTiny85 serves to control the interdicting function of the camera. When the user sets up to take a picture using Camera Restricta, an app running on the phone queries a node.js server that trawls Flikr and Panoramio for geotagged photos of the local area. From that information, the camera outputs a clicking audio relative to the number of photos taken and — if there are over a certain number of pictures of the area — the screen trips a photocell connected to the ATTiny 85 board, retracting the shutter button and locking down the viewfinder until you find a more original subject to photograph.

It sounds galling to have one’s camera shut down on us — especially when the audio output sounds almost like a Geiger counter for the mundane — but the resulting adventures to find original subjects may be worth the effort.

To ensure those original photographs stay that way until you can upload them yourself, a little crypto-photography may be in order.

[Thanks for the tip, Itay!]

42 thoughts on “Camera Restricta Ensures Original Photography

      1. In the current political climate I worry that something like this could be forcibly implemented on cell phone cameras such that say recording the actions of police would be automatically inhibited and similar abuses. Paranoid? Perhaps but I would have had a hard time beliving a year ago the the headlines I’m reading now were not the product of an overactive imagination.

          1. P.S. I understand that the article/artist already did that as a response to the EU nonsense, but the EU nonsense was defeated, it’s best to not ever mention it again IMHO.

          2. No the business of art in times like this is to be dangerous – people need to think of the implications of everything, constantly going forward. Complacency is the real enemy when the system is crumbling.

      1. Yes. The location of the photo has nothing to do with the content of the photo, hence the premise is idiotic. You go outside the National Mall and there will be 100000 (short of a million) photos of Trump. But different time, different day and you’re not taking photos of Trump anymore, so why should the camera restrict based on location instead of content if the idea was to force someone to take a more unique photo.

        Sorry but I find this idiotic.

  1. Clearly this is not for the casual tourist. Just anyone with half a sense of adventure or willing to see the world in any perspective besides the obvious.

    Clearly, if you want to have the photo of the popular spot, you carry a second camera. Which, if you’re a photographer, is probably already the case.

    I would be interested to have the ticking interface available independent of the camera, to see where folks are taking photos. It would be kind of like people watching, where the people are ghosts.

    1. What happens if you can’t turn off WiFi?

      The ONLY situation the words “conspiracy” and “tinfoil” can be used together in a sentence:

      “Wrap the camera in tinfoil to (hopefully) block the WiFi and take photos to help unfold the conspiracy behind the crime scene.”

      Presuming you have tinfoil for some reason on you…

  2. I like it, nothing much more to say, it’s a neat idea well executed.

    As for the naysayers, not everything has to be 100% practical. A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.

  3. I object on philosophical grounds because I assert that it is not possible to take two identical photographs even on the same camera due to quantum noise and therefore this camera-art is merely promulgating the simplistic classical belief in a world that is solid and fixed. Reality is four dimensional, how can you ignore the arrow of time and the fact that the only constant is constant change. Well excluding certain physical constants that are abstractions anyway.

    1. However… Human perception would say otherwise.

      Take one photo, then print it twice.
      Does the differing grain direction/quality and/or gloss flatness between the two photo printouts make two completely different photographs?

        1. OK, subjective to opinion, however some of my thoughts and internal questioning:…

          But is the camera making the two subtle differences or is the printer?

          In other words:
          Does the printing of one photo, say PIC001.RAW validate the photo taken on the camera and the very next print of PIC001.RAW completely make your efforts in taking said photo with said camera completely pointless as you can’t replicate your very own (and personal) “artwork”?

          I’d say, a photo that has been carefully taken under the chosen conditions and selected carefully for its quality in preferably a way that shows an end user what the photographer is willing to show, Thus the final product can vary a little as long as its source is taken well enough to portray said information as best as possible (IMHO).

          Then again, at least (for most intents and purposes) photography at any level of professionalism is nowhere near those extreme audiophiles, you know, the ones you can sell a wooden block to for a quarter million and call it an “Audio air cleaner” and they still bite.
          Photographers have something to show at the end of it, extreme-audiophiles can’t let you listen to Beethoven detuned in the 15Ghz key.

          Sorry to be pedantic, but…. Some of this spectrum still baffles me.
          And you don’t have to answer said questions, unless you feel like you want to.

  4. Haha… immediately after “sometimes I wonder why we even bother taking pictures” the screen went blank for so long I thought maybe the next 4:33 would be a blank screen and silence. Replaying, I guess it was just a buffering coincidence.

  5. Photography is so much more than location, direction, and subject. It includes what time of day you chose, what lens you chose (especially if you used a shallow depth of field, showcasing the bokeh of the lens), what f-stop, what zoom, where clouds were in the sky, whether you bracketed multiple frames and used an HDR technique… there are so many ways one photo of the same subject can be a completely different picture.

    This is why some photos of the Eiffel tower are ‘art’, while others are just smartphone ‘I was here!’ junk. Actually, this is really why most photographers take pictures that are so much nicer than the ones I take. :D

    1. Now this was the sort of reply I expected of Dan above.

      You forgot filters, although they can also be considered a part of the lens paraphernalia.

      Colour filters, kaleidoscope effect filters, 4frame/5frame with merge effect using a multi-lens lens, “360*” lens, etc…

  6. Wow, the number of people who think this is a mandatory project is staggering. If you don’t like it, don’t build one. No one if forcing you to load the app, and no no no, this absolutely isn’t intended for crime scene photography or reporting your accidents. Jeez.

    1. I noticed that during the truck incident in Germany the police asked people to not share imagery and 90% complied, which shows me the Germans still have part of the issue that got them (and by extension neighbors) in trouble in the past.
      It was a especially good example because the incident ended already and there was no reason for the authorities to tell people that.

  7. As others have stated, location of photo != content of photo. I could be wrong but I dont think this system can even tell the direction of the camera was facing, meaning it will pretty much just block based on location.

    I feel this concept could have been better executed as a photography app on a smartphone – This would allow orientation as well as location to be used, and more importantly can reference image hosting sites to check if similar pictures are already in abundance. Rather than not allowing one to take a picture, the pictures could be analyzed and given a uniqueness score. This would challenge the photographer to truly seek out unique subjects to keep their average score high, rather than just pointing the camera at anything mildly interesting and seeing if the camera will let them take the picture.

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