20 Years of Camera Phones (11 June 1997)
Sophie Kahn was born on the 11 June 1997. During her mother’s labour, her father Philippe had been banished from the birthing suite for a period of time. Like many expectant fathers, he had a small digital camera with him to record his new baby’s arrival. Sitting in the waiting room, he wondered how he was going to show off his new baby and he had the inkling of an idea. He rigged a makeshift connection from his camera to his mobile phone, wrote a couple lines of simple code, and a short while later a photograph of his beautiful baby daughter became the first image to be transmitted by a mobile phone. The camera phone is probably the most important development in photography since the medium was developed 1830’s. The number of people with mobile phones is staggering. According to Comreg, the Commission for Communications Regulation, there are almost 6 million mobile subscriptions in Ireland, impressive for a country with a population of about 4.8 million. Worldwide it is estimated that there are about 4.6 billion mobile phones, almost half of which are smartphones. The numbers of photographs taken are staggering also, some projections estimate that well over a trillion photographs will be taken in 2017. Image is the only truly global language. This small project is to celebrate the camera phone’s twentieth birthday and it is pure street photography. Street photography is the most accessible and real form of photography there is. It relies totally on the photographer’s eye for an image, and being there and being ready. These photographs were taken at events or tourist locations in Dublin and Limerick and are of people out and about and having a good time. Most of the images taken were probably posted online, a visual record for loved ones and friends to see (but probably not printed). It is interesting that more people were using camera phones than ordinary cameras. The camera phone is now an important part of most family and social events. And because it is much easier to share photographs taken on a phone, perhaps the digital camera itself is heading for obsolescence. Not only is image the global language, the camera phone has made the world a smaller place. Images taken now can be seen online within seconds. Twenty years ago, Philippe Kahn could scarcely have imagined the changes his new invention would bring. The camera phone is here to stay. It is hard to remember a time without camera phones, and they are fun. It has encouraged us to smile more and to connect more, and this can only be a good thing.