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Why the Smartphone Camera Changed Photography Forever

James Bareham:

In 1913, Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke designed a revolutionary small, light camera that used 35mm cinema film — the Leica. Barnack wanted to make photography accessible to far more people; to give those people greater opportunity to photograph the world around them without having to relying on bulky, expensive equipment; to shoot candid, real pictures of their lives — a radical departure from the stiff and formal portraits of the time. He designed his camera to be an “integral part of the eye” or an “extension of the hand.” Barnack’s invention of the Leica led directly to an explosion of a totally new kind of photographic social documentation of real life; something that had never been seen before.

In 1913, the Leica camera enabled photographers to take an entirely new kind of picture, and its success had very little to do with better image quality. Ninety-four years later, the iPhone helped kick off another revolution that not only changed the way we take and view photographs, but changed the way we view the world.