The Ghosts Of Tourists Past

Jillian Steinhauer spotlights the surprisingly spooky work of German design student Philipp Schmitt, who captured images of flashing cameras at frequently photographed sites:

He began by simply placing geotagged photos in online maps as markers, little mustard-yellow drops littering New York City. Next, he created a web app “to retrieve my current geo location and to query the web for pictures taken at that position,” he writes on his website. He also rigged a camera flash to go off whenever pictures are found, allowing him to walk around an area while the flash is triggered. He recorded those results in long-exposure photographs of his own that are dotted with spots of light. In the final step, Schmitt added a person to the scenes, focusing his camera and flash on a stand-in tourist who appears and reappears brandishing a camera of his own.

She adds:

In a curious way, [the images] hark back to the first photograph ever taken of a person, a street scene shot by Daguerre with a 10-minute exposure – only two men stayed still long enough to appear. Then, in 1838, people went about their lives with no inkling of the technology that was set to revolutionize the world; now we carry it in our pockets, snap without thinking, and barely notice it at all.