October 22nd, 2009


Introducing projectography

When I used to write for tech and design mags, I'd often cover gadgets. Apart from the iPhone (which made me weep tears of joy over my Wired column) it was hard to muster much enthusiasm about any of them. My tech-lust -- strong in the 90s -- seemed to be saluting digital cameras, mobile phones, and vacuum-cleaning robots at half cock. That's why I rarely review them here on Click Opera.

The Nikon Coolpix S1000pj is the first digital camera in years to elicit any sort of excitement at all from me. Above you see stunt group Helicopter Boyz demonstrating some less orthodox applications for the device, which is basically a digital camera with a projector built in.

The video got me considering other ways you could use the S1000pj. You could project a photo of your own face on top of video projections at art shows. You could project the word LIAR onto Tony Blair's white shirt while he's making a speech on live TV. Flashers could take flash photos of their own genitals and project them onto the bedroom walls of sleeping maidens. Pictures of laser beams could be projected into the cockpits of landing aircraft, leading them to imagine themselves blinded and crash. But please don't do that while I'm landing in Japan this December, because I'll die before I can buy one of these remarkable cameras.

Is it even, technically, a camera? Nikon have coined the slightly pretentious term "projectography" for their European press ads, suggesting the camera heralds a new hybrid, multimedia artform. It's not just that you take pictures that you can see immediately (that's been possible since the invention of the Polaroid), it's that you can turn your snaps (and movies) into spectral ghost-presences in the same environment you shot them in, a possibility which invokes R. Murray Schaffer's idea of "schizophonia".

In the UK and US ads, annoyingly entitled kids project pictures of a band onto the band's own t-shirts, fall asleep with their S1000pjs clutched tightly in their hands, then project pictures of the rising sun onto their pillows. Plato would've been spinning in his cave.

The S1000pj was supposed to be released in August, but -- due, Nikon say, to unprecedented pre-order demand -- has been pushed back to October 23rd. In Japan it'll cost 51800 yen, which works out at €381.96 at current exchange rates. Not bad for such a paradigm-shifting wee device. The only downside is reportedly short battery life.

In an age of samey-same camera design, I for one welcome this eccentric amphibian, the camera-plus-projector. Let us become projectographers. Let us embrace a gadget which proposes the first new artform of the 21st century. And let us devise uses for it undreamt of by the manufacturer, and not yet outlawed by bylaws. Projecting poetry onto our own faces as we sit on subway trains! Projecting blood onto Christ's loincloth in church! Casting a third eye onto the bank manager's forehead!