Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, we're taking more photos than ever—but that doesn't mean they're all good or unique.
New technology has us drowning in photographs that frequently replicate the same viewpoints travelers captured throughtout the 20th century. In response, two artists have created two different types of camera technology to prevent you from contributing to this photographic overload.
Vincent Sapajou, a Paris-based engineer and artist who goes by Salade Tomate Oignon, has crafted a camera that uses Rasperry Pi and algorithms to match what the camera lens is viewing to similar images on Google.
The camera, called Le Myope, shows the user what's out on the interwebs before they click.
“It's haunting because a lot of things, places have been captured, but it forces me to find new angles, or places where no Google vans go, or to focus on topics and places that are disregarded by most people,” Sapajou said of his personal approach to photography.
The camera is not available for purchase, but Sapajou provides instructions on his site for how to create your own.
And then there's the Camera Restricta, created by Phillipp Schmitt, a designer in Germany who is interested in technology.
This speculative camera design uses GPS to find geotagged photos of your surroundings on Flickr and Panoramio.
Camera Restricta goes further than Le Myope: If there have been too many photos taken at the location, it prevents the user from taking another.
This could inspire creativity—but also potentially frustration. Imagine visiting Paris for the very first time and taking out your camera, only to be told there are already enough images of the Eiffel Tower.
But Schmitt says you cannot judge the potential quality and significance by the quantity in one geographic location, so the camera should not be taken as a literal functional product. With Camera Restricta, he hopes to inspire travelers to slow down and to enjoy moments without looking through a screen or viewfinder.
The two cameras do not offer an ultimate technique for becoming a better photographer and avoiding clichés, but they can provide awareness about what photos of a place are already plentiful. And with that, a photographer can ask themselves what about the scene they really want to capture.
Next time you find yourself snapping away, consider Phillipp’s process: “When I visit a tourist site, I like to find a place to sit down for a while and observe what’s going on.”
“What are people doing, what’s the architecture like, how does it smell,” he said. “When I take a photo afterwards, I take just one or two. Still I’ll have more vivid memories to draw from than if I had snapped 25 photos to capture everything from every angle.”
Mariah Tyler is a digital photo editor at Travel+Leisure. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @mphbox.