chapter  7
20 Pages

Between Image and Information: The iPhone Camera in the History of Photography


When the iPhone camera snaps a scene, as above, it is not only optics and a photo-sensitive surface that determine the outcomes, as with conventional cameras. The device can perform many combinations of digital operations, including analyzing the image data, performing algorithmic changes, connecting to other data spaces and storing image fi les. For example, the iPhone might return a dramatically processed photographic image, create an offi ce document or use the image as pure information. This wide range of potential operations is courtesy of the iPhone’s key software innovation: apps, bundles of meaning and functionality each marked by its own distinctive name and icon and available for sale in the App Store. Any app that uses the iPhone’s camera becomes an interface between user events of photography and a particular set of possible visual and informational processes. Despite having a camera with major technical limitations, the iPhone has become a disruptive technology in amateur photography. I will argue that it opens onto its own “Universes of reference”—technical, aesthetic, subjective and instrumental-and has established new aggressive economic models.