Layer Cam: the lensless tourist camera in a lunchbox

Have you ever noticed the way that everybody takes the same photo when doing the tourist thing? Just look at Google: there are a million pictures of people punting past King’s College Chapel in Cambridge out there, all taken at the same angle, from the same position – and they’re all online. So why do we (and I’m just as guilty of this as everybody else) spend precious time taking pictures of something that somebody’s almost certainly taken a better photo of already?

SaladeTomateOignon in Paris, another photogenic city, has noticed the same thing.

He says:

28 million people visit Paris every year, taking dozens of pictures each. Every building, every statue has been captured, under every sky and every light.

Because billions of pictures of the Eiffel tower have been taken, I am sure that you can find matching cloud patterns in dozen of them, even if taken years apart.

Pictures have been taken with simple pin-hole camera, smartphones or with the most complex and expensive large format silver film camera or DSLR, and lots of them are now online.

On the Internet, those photographies are sprinkled over the city, with some areas densely covered, and other more sparsely. Each website is like a stratum of pictures of every kind: postcards, paintings, photos, satellite images…

Layer cam is a project to tap into those layers, like a drill extracting a core sample of images.

Based on a Raspberry Pi, connected to the Internet through wifi and geolocalized by a GPS chip, Layer cam runs with Python code (mostly made from bits of code I found here (Martin O’Hanlon) and there (disasterjs) and taps into Panoramio API. The ‘Layer cam’ logo has been designed by Alice.

We love this project. It’s just the right amount of pointless, it’s in a Tupperware box, Paris is beautiful, and it made us smile. You can find out how to build your own at saladtomateoignon, with code and physical build instructions (which involve rubber bands and duct tape, like the very best of projects).


gordon77 avatar

I suppose the next step in a program to add a picture of those you want posing in front of the attraction, like most tourist shots.

simon avatar

Or a small phone app that detects your track and matches to the nearest beliveable location for which it has a pic.

I suppose to retain voluntary input you could have a button. But with something like a microwriter keyboard you can have it in the gloom of your pocket and key “like”, or “yech” or whatever.

The friends can be shopped in as post-production. Or non-friends, like doing the Louvre with Vincent.

Liz Upton avatar

Oh good grief, all those people in the Louvre taking selfies with the pictures. And it’s amazing watching them; they don’t actually *look* at the pictures at all, other than via the screen on their phones.

When I am queen of the world I will ban cameras in galleries.

Mel avatar

Could her Royal Lizness also decree that phones must have ability to detect a duckface selfie and emit a loud “QUACK” each time ?

simon avatar

With the “GPS+microwriter in your pocket” you can log your location etc. with spare bandwidth in your hand and really enjoy the art with your eyes.

Whenever I have been to the Louvre the Mona Lisa is hard to see: sits in an tinted armour-glass box with a huge herd of Japanese(?) tourists+cameras in front so she’s just a miscoloured spec. Similar for other galleries.

But it works well for us: it hoovers up the tourists, like the getter in a valve. So we get the rest of the gallery to ourselves. But then you get to see N-1 works.

Could be the really sussed curators get one of their kid’s paintings and big it up for the tourists, who will go and selfie there, leaving all N of the pukka works for us.

Come the revolution camerade!

Paultnl avatar

Liz you already are queen of the world.

Liz Upton avatar

I also plan on banning margarine, catfood that smells of sick, and alarm clocks.

simon avatar

Your black book going to 2nd volume?

Bantammenace avatar

How about presenting the photos in date order so you can see how the location you are at has altered over time ?
There will be photos of the major tourist attractions dating right back to the dawn of photography.

Bantammenace avatar

Or even by limiting it one’s own photographs to see if you’ve been there before.

aremvee avatar

that would be good in Christchurch

Andy avatar

I do have one gripe with it – you appear to have to actually be there.
Can’t we just grab the picture, put ourselves in it, buy the t-shirt on line, and save all the air-miles?

AndrewS avatar
scot avatar

you seem to have missed the point of the picture. Its not to look cool, its more a badge of honor that you’ve been there! No photo can ever compare to actually being someplace in person.

dosch avatar

Very similiar to this project by Sacha Pohflepp:

(also available as an app for iPhone ;-) )

Albert Hartley avatar

I’ve been wondering about the possibilities of combining photos from an event where all the cameras are pointing at the same thing from different angles, like a concert or presidential inauguration (it was big photos of Obama’s second that first made me wonder). Like a 360 cam, but many more cameras arrayed in the shape of the venue. Getting more ambitious, could you sync up all the videos that were taken?

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