Since the invention of photography in 1839, camera and reproduction alike have shaped the way we see the world — a feedback loop that has accelerated apace with processor power in the digital era.
Long regarded as a truthful means of representing the world, the camera is now the optical accomplice of the computer, a similarly infallible tool for processing data. As the lens has been absorbed into the smartphone, it has not only grown more powerful, it has also shrunk to a degree of near-invisibility and proliferated to the point of ubiquity.
The fact that we collectively snap and share more photos than ever before simply affirms that the camera, like the proverbial furniture, has faded into the background of everyday life. Now that the computer is dissipating into the cloud and possibly vanishing altogether, the distance between lens and screen — input and output — irrevocably grows greater still.
But where does that leave the camera? And beyond the notion that machines oversee us to the extent that we overlook them, the question remains: Can the full richness of reality ever be captured and measured with algorithmic accuracy?