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India Observations Part 1- Camera Phones

So you have a camera phone and you don't use it.... you are western and probably had access to camera for years. For most of your life you have been recorded, snapped, super8ed, videoed etc. There's societal rules about cameras and implied rules about camera phones. Your conclusions may be all wrong.

Now imagine a world where no one growing up had a camera. Where photos were taken at a wedding, relegated to studio shots for the rich, or Bollywood snaps appearing in the press. In a gross generalization, photography in India was 50 or 60 years behind the rest of the world until the mobile phone arrived. My initial observations.

Village: Last April I was taken by Dina on a research visit to a small village in Alwar where I took many pictures and was entertained by village elders for lunch. One of their proudest family possessions was a simple album of their daughter's wedding. The pictures had been taken by an English visitor who just happened to be visiting the hotel where the event was held. In the same small one room house I played back a camera phone video I shot of the wife cooking chapattis for us, to two of her children. They were both about 7 or 8. They really didn't even comprehend what it was. It was magic. Yet in a few years they are certain to have phones. Those phones will have cameras.

The Coffee Bar: Sitting in a coffee shop. Yes the Starbucks equivalents are in India. From Cafe CoffeeDay to Barista the youth today have a new and, by Indian standards (say 75 cents for an expresso), still very expensive emerging coffee habit. Each time I frequent one I'm always seeing people taking pictures. They pass the phone around. They take them with each other's phones. They display a real delight of just discovering photography and they just keep on snapping.

Camera phones will impact society differently here. There was no progression from a camera. The mobile phone for many, is their first camera. They never learned to shoot with film or the constraints and expense of film. They never looked through a viewfinder. Photography for them starts on a device that is better at shorter distances. They are learning photography in a digital age. As a result India is about to experience an outpouring of imagery.

Flickr and Bubbleshare beware. Camera phones are changing the way India tells stories and records her history. For the most part, pictures remain trapped on the phones. The solutions will come out of India or China. The volume or will that be a flood of imagery and video may simply flood our senses. As the people tell the story society will be forced to make additional changes. The camera phone represents a growing power here.

Lastly, Nokia owns India. It's is their market to make or break. They lead with camera phones. In India you see they are really on to something.


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Comments (2)

See this article here .. http://www.telecomweb.com/tnd/19723.html (free registration required). From the article: "A new report from the firm says the portion of low-cost handsets with basic cameras is high enough that, during the next 10 years, "hundreds of millions" of Chinese and Indians not only will have their first phone experience via a wireless handset, but also their first camera experience."

It's a great observation, not that cameraphones are everyware, but that the phone is a leapfrog to cameras.

People are just going nuts "sampling" reality, yes.

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