Well, yeah, phones and cameras are an odd mix aren't they? They feed our need for instant gratification. Pick a cellular phone company and you can bet that at least a few camera-phones (hereafter to be called “campho”) on the smorgasbord. As a photographer, it's tempting to see what they are capable of doing. But given their small file sizes and the limited amount of space on the LCD's of these phones, the gratification is well, limited to our eyesight and attention span for all things small.
Steve Outing, Senior Editor at the Poynter Institute is all for camphos. His posts about how they can revolutionize reporting by the common citizen is refreshing, but the practice comes at a cost. Imagine Jane Doe walking along the streets of Timbuktu and coming upon an accident where true to the sense of what's news (if it bleeds, it leads) a man is on the ground with no paramedics in sight. Jane Doe is no photographer but she whips out her Nokia 6000 (or whatever model) and starts clicking away. She doesn't help the poor chap out, but is busy documenting the scene. Question is why and for whom? Would the phone not be better served to call the police and the paramedics? Even as a photojournalist, my first impulse is to get the man some help and then start working on what I do best. But leaving these choices to someone not in the business, and unaware of protocol, is troubling. It's one thing to send cute pictures of grandma on her birthday blowing out 80 candles and quite another to make images that are socially relevant. In my mind, the ethical choices compound.
Add to this, in the last few weeks, I have heard stories that camphos are being misused and are a threat to privacy. Despite the bans in several well known sports facilities (where the phones were being used to photograph people working out), Alan A. Reiter defends their use.
“The ability to take photos might not be a “right” per se , but the more restrictive a society, the greater the chance of banning photographs.”
He is talking about Saudi Arabia and Cuba who have apparently crimped the plans of many a campho toting tourist to snap willy-nilly at whatever comes their way. I am all for press freedom, but I sure wouldn't want to be photographed in a private setting and in an uncompromising situation. The image of me lifting weights ain't pretty follks!
I am sure you have heard of the term moblogging, or mobile blogging. It's the ability to quickly scribble a note on one's PDA/campho or, I guess, photograph, and post it to one's blog site. I haven't tried doing that yet, but that's because I don't have a PDA that's wi-fi enabled or a campho. If you want to learn more about this phenomena (fad?) check Picturephoning.com out.
A Reuters story augurs the hope that people will use camphos with some restraint, if only due to their technical limitations. But megapixel camphos are on their way. It's going to get very interesting.