Last Updated on 06/04/2023 by Chris Gampat
Imagine a world where that picture you took didn’t rely on what kind of lens you were carrying with you. Imagine a world where said picture didn’t need a sensor, a piece of light bending glass or, why not, the light itself. Imagine a place where you didn’t even have to learn the basic framing, lighting, or composition skills, because they’d be useless. Well, this is Paragraphica, the brainchild of Bjørn Karman. According to the website, “It’s a context-to-image camera that uses location data and artificial intelligence to visualize a “photo” of a specific place and moment. The camera exists both as a physical prototype and a virtual one you can try.
Imagine a world where photography didn’t mean capturing the real now but rather making up an image based on a thousand different pasts.
Sounds like some kind of dystopian nightmare, am I right? To me, it feels like someone went through the whole Torment Nexus process without even the most imaginative writer going through the trouble of describing it first.
In the words of Bjørn Karman himself, this is “a passion art project, with no intention of making a product or challenging photography”, but my first sad encounter with the project was thanks to a tweet by Linus Ekenstam, an AI Educator and Designer.
In this tweet and others, Linus says the future of photography is lens-free, that this stuff is extremely interesting, and the possibilities are near-endless.
Are they, though? After all, we know AI is nothing but a glorified plagiarizing machine—something “trained” on thousands of stolen images, built for nefarious purposes like getting out of paying real artists, whatever their field.
Where are the near-endless possibilities in prompts like “An evening photo taken at Groen van Prinstererstraat 26. The weather is few clouds with a temperature of 16 degrees?”
Where’s the life? Where’s the serendipity? Where are the little details only found by people’s keen eyes and sheer luck? Where’s the art of automatically blending a dozen images stolen off the Internet?
Why are AI gurus trying to take us to a future where machines do the creative work and humanity is left for the rest? Why do they have such an obsession with seeing the world through some dehumanized, falsified representation of what the world is? Are they finding it that hard to cope with reality?
I know this is a funny gizmo meant to question the role of artificial intelligence in creative purposes. Still, the fact that it brought so many tech people stating this was the future of photography makes me even more disgusted at the whole concept of fake images generated by soulless machines.
I genuinely can’t think of a real world application for this little toy—and neither can its creator; after all, it’s just a gadget that generates a basic text to feed the AI machine by itself. The fact that people are amazed and excited about it makes me believe some of them have thought of uses for the Paragraphica. That, or they’re even stupider than one might think. And I don’t know what’s more terrifying.
As per the article’s title, inspired by our friend Linus Ekenstam, no. The future of photography won’t ever be lens-free. Unless that is, you decide to go the route of pinhole photography.