It's not about the pixels
By Eric Lin, Thu Nov 27 00:15:00 GMT 2003

As cameraphones become a part of everyday life in the mobile world, artists and curators are taking to time explore how a cameraphone is still a camera. Today Xeni Jardin announced SENT, a show of low resolution art scheduled for early 2004 in Los Angeles.

Previously a group of photographers called Bromkameratene organized a show in Norway of 80 pictures taken with Nokia 7650s. InfoSync quotes one of theparticipants as saying "these cameras remind us that quality photos are not about electronics and post-processing, but rather about simple motives, being present and having fun with photos."

Sent seeks to explore more than just how many pixels it takes to make a good photograph. It is looking at the democratization of media by cameraphones. To that end SENT will be one of the first curated shows to include not just artists, but digerati, and even everyday folks who can enter through a contest sponsored by NPR.

The cost of the camera, the number of pixels, or even the name of the artist is not what makes a photo art, but it is still up in the air whether cameraphone pictures or blogs will be considered art in the long term. This exploration bears a close resemblance to the Pixelvision movement of the early 1990's. Back then video was just gaining acceptance as an art form. In an effort to democratize the medium (video equipment was costly back then), a group of New York artists started experimenting with Fisher Price PXL-2000 cameras. They were cheap, small, low resolution grey scale video camera that recorded to standard audio cassettes. It was quite the rage among the post modern set until high quality digital video became affordable.

Just as with pixelvision, low resolution cameraphones will be replaced by higher quality models in a short time. As that happens, the art will be less about the quantity of pixels and more about the quality of the image. Until then, expect to see more galleries and museums experimenting with phones, moblogging and other mobile multimedia.