In December 1975 Steve Sasson, an engineer with the Eastman Kodak company developed the first digital camera. It heralded a revolutionary change on so many levels. It not only changed the way that images were made but it also extended the lifespan that images acquire. No longer would images be subjected to the whims of light, chemicals and celluloid interactions. No longer would they be required to sit between plastic sleeves, pages and pages, albums upon albums, ‘sweating’. And if you had been caught in the institutional loop of record keeping, a file cabinet or a manila folder, would probably become your final resting ground.
As technology accelerates at phenomenal speed time is compressed and so too does the capacity to store more and more images, larger amounts of data and vast quantities of information. We can squeeze more pixels into less space, compress more information into shorter code. This momentum is also evident by our appetite to capture images. In 2015 it was estimated that in the US alone over 105 billion digital photos were captured, only a third of the total images processed. And it doesn’t look like its about to slow down either. According to Ray Kurzweil “because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress.” And like most things today the mass manufactured camera has also been caught up in the accelerated pace of object commodification.
Nobody really knows how many CCTV cameras exist in New Zealand but one figure from the privacy commission website revealed that Auckland’s Queen Street alone had at least 100 cameras in operation. They go on to say that in “going about your day in NZ, you could expect to be recorded on CCTV walking down the main street, when you go into a bank or use an ATM machine, while supermarket shopping, getting petrol, driving through main traffic areas or intersections, going to a museum, art gallery or cinema, or going to the hospital,” and these are just but a handful of situations where cameras exist in public places.
Although the camera is just one of the many mapping techniques employed by governments, institutions and organisations, it is also the most tangible of tools in use today. The camera acts as the intermediary device between subject and viewer capturing and recording our understanding of the world as we interact with it. It can have a powerful and revealing role as it captures evidence, confirming realities, offering a sense of justice and validation; or it can reveal an obscure moment as it reinterprets only a snippet of an event, a moment open for interpretation, creating an ambiguous perceptual field. Our relationship with cameras is fundamental to our understanding of where we came from, where we are at present and where we might want to go. It is embedded in our nostalgia and it represents our memories, an object which captures the images which facilitate the emotional connection between sensory experience and perceived reality.
[image] The first digital camera. Electronic still camera / US 4131919 : … A charge transfer circuit converts the charge pattern into a high frequency pulsed electrical signal immediately following the exposure interval to remove the charge from the device in a short period of time to maintain unwanted "dark current" at a low level. Each pulse represents the image-forming light projected onto a particular photosensitive element. A high speed analog-to-digital converter converts these pulses to multi-bit digital words in real time. A digital buffer memory temporarily stores these words, then retransmits them at a rate that is compatible for recording on the audio-grade tape… (Extract from Patent application: US 05/798,956)