It’s a general assumption that we suffer from image overload. Now that we all have cell phones — and our cell phones double as cameras — photographs fill our inboxes and crowd our social networks. For some, it’s gotten to the point that photography has become a meaningless compulsion. “People just take pictures, but what do they do with them? They store them on more digital devices never to be seen again,” says photojournalist Nick Danziger. Recently, Danziger attracted attention by proposing that our digital devices be limited to one photograph per day. “I believe my idea will make the world an even more captivating and interesting place than it already is.”
Plenty of photographers and tinkerers aim to bring meaning back to the camera. One of the most original takes on this problem comes from Matt Richardson, who created the Descriptive Camera. Like a Polaroid camera, it spits out an immediate hard copy of whatever you just captured, but instead of a photograph, the Descriptive Camera produces a text description of your subject. When you snap a picture, it is automatically uploaded online, where users write a short, objective description of the image. This description is then electronically sent back to the camera, where it is printed. ”I was picturing a time in which cameras could possibly capture more useful information that can then be searched, cross-referenced and sorted,” Richardson told the BBC.
Some might argue that the Descriptive Camera misses the hidden emotion that exists in so many photographs, the evocative quality that has intrigued us since the invention of photography nearly two centuries ago, but maybe transferring an image to text opens other possibilities. Do you think a photograph is always more expressive than words, or can text create more space for imagination?
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.