Created by German design student Philipp Schmitt, the Camera Restricta is a 3D-printed iPhone camera case that’s trying to stem the torrent of photos that come out of traditional tourist spots every day, in the hopes that people will go and find somewhere a bit more original to take their photos.
The case is vintage in appearance (of course) and uses your phone’s GPS and a custom web app to get location information from pictures that have been posted publicly to places like Flickr to determine how many images have been geotagged at your location that day.
If the device decides too many pictures have been taken from the location you’re in, the microcontroller-powered shutter will retract into the case and the viewfinder will close, incapacitating your camera until you shuffle off somewhere else and try to capture something your phone case hasn’t designated a touristic cliché.
Camera Restricta will give you information in a couple of ways: the back of the device will display how many photos have been taken at your location accompanied by a “yes” or “no” to let you know whether you’re allowed to add to the digital pile. It will also emit noise, the loudness of which will indicate whether or not you should pack up your camera and move on out. No photos for you, you late-to-the-party infester of Instagram.
Schmitt hopes the product will move people away from the typical tourist destinations and capture images in more undiscovered places. The Camera Restricta isn’t a product available for purchase, but Schmitt has made the code behind the project open source and available on GitHub so that the idea can be built upon.
What we can’t help but wonder is why anyone would want something like this. It just seems so negative. If you don’t want to take a clichéd photo, just don’t. It’s not like when we go on holiday we strap on a fanny pack, throw off our self-awareness, and become unstoppable beasts, driven only by the thought of getting photos of popular sights. Why do we have to be made to feel guilty by someone else’s social media snobbery about something as inconsequential as holiday photos?
If I want to stand in that one spot at the Eiffel Tower and take a photo from the same angle and distance as everyone else, upload it to Instagram and, God forbid, slam the Valencia filter over the top of it like the uncultured cretin I have the absolute capacity to be, I will. Because it’s not the same clichéd image as everyone else’s. It’s mine. It’s what I saw and it’ll be my memory. That’s what makes it special. My social media pages are not there for you to police. Besides, so help you God if this device stops me taking an image of something funny a pigeon was doing just because it happened to be at the leaning tower of Pisa.
I can’t really see how this device is going to stop people from visiting a city’s tourist traps; all it’ll do is stop them taking a picture of them. It doesn’t help anyone actively find anything more interesting to explore; it’s not that easy being in a large city where chances are you don’t speak the language. It’s undeniably absolutely worth the time and effort to plan some days off the beaten track, and this motivation is admirable, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see the well-known sights, and there’s equally nothing wrong with wanting to capture the specific moment you were there, the way the light fell, the people that were there around you, even if two thousand people have already done so before you. Your photo isn’t less special because you weren’t one of the first to capture it.
The only thing about this that really appeals to me is being able to see how many people have taken a photo in my location because I’m unbelievably nosy and competitive; there might have already been hundreds of photos taken here, but mine will be the best.
Main Image: © Philipp Schmitt