Contextual Photography

2020

An exploration of human connection to digital contexts through the embodiment of environmental meta-data within images.

Industrial/Product Design, Interaction Design

Module
Advanced Industrial Design
Module Lead
Dr Stephen Green
Contextual photography explores how we might create more authentic experiences using digital photography and bring a sense of tangibility to the medium. Through research and prototyping, an expandable camera was developed that embeds environmental metadata into images through visual artefacts that evoke a similar sense of craft and connectedness to film photography. The project explores how usage, device orientation, environmental sound, and geolocation might function as a visual language that communicates meaning more succinctly within digital landscapes.
Design Process
Film photography has seen a resurgence, with young film enthusiasts citing the physical tangibility of film and its slowed-down process as significant driving forces towards the medium. This is in contrast to digital photography, which can feel less authentic and more disposable since it is almost too perfect and accessible. However, digital photography has its unique advantages and benefits from technological developments. Therefore, the project's overarching purpose was to understand how we might create an authentic experience using digital photography and bring tangibility to the medium.

An expandable camera was designed that manipulates images based on environmental factors and handling. The camera expands horizontally, directly affecting the aspect ratio of images. The camera's orientation and gradient affect the photos' aberration, creating a visual representation of how the user handled the camera. The surrounding sound adds a unique grain texture to the image, visually representing the environment and providing an insight into how the scene was at the time. And finally, based on the geolocation of the camera, specific colour tones are loaded into the camera that changes over time, like weather patterns. This feature builds a community around the connected cameras and encourages exploration to seek specific styles. Since time and location directly influence the images, they embody a more characteristic film-like quality.

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