From the invention of the photophone to the universal camera, come and discover the new area of the Swiss Museum of Photography!
Since 2021, the museum team has been studying, researching and selecting mobile phones. Each one proposes one or more significant innovations in the field of photography.
In the two centuries of its history, from its invention to its digitalization, photography has undergone several revolutions. The mobile phone revolution is one of the most important. It is so profound that it changes the very definition of photography. In the past, the technique served the long time of memory and documentation of the world. Today it favours the short time of visual, global, instantaneous communication.
The integration of the photographic function in a mobile phone would not have been possible without prior innovations. Such as the CCD sensor or image compression. The first photophones appeared at the beginning of the 2000s. Their success was immediate. They are ultra-compact, easy to use and always within reach. They encourage the playful use of images. The addition of a front camera gave rise to the selfie phenomenon.
The plebiscite is even greater with the appearance of the smartphone, embodied by the release of the first iPhone in 2007. Connected to the internet, the smartphone allows photographs to be shared immediately, especially through social networks. While it incorporates a large number of different functions, image capture is favoured by manufacturers. It is the focus of their technological research and marketing efforts.
Once mediocre, photos taken with mobile phones are improving all the time. The cameras incorporate several focal lengths and as many sensors, optical zooms, stabilisers, lasers, different file formats, artificial intelligence, and exponentially increasing calculation capacities.
Now a universal camera, sold by the hundreds of millions every year, the smartphone has almost wiped out the compact digital camera market. It is now competing with SLRs and hybrids. Where will it end?
One thing is certain: thanks to the smartphone, photography as a social and cultural practice has never been better.