The Google Glass Explorer Version will soon go the way of all technology and land on the shelves of tech museums, next to the original, year-old Leica camera. But the trend they stand for will continue as the pioneering devices slowly become classics, then museum pieces: ever easier, ever more candid photos. The test run is starting. Bruce Gilden makes his way through the crowds on Fifth Avenue, his old hunting grounds. Gilden, who as a child wanted to be a boxer, instead fought his way to fame on these unyielding sidewalks by taking portraits of strangers.
His preferred method: jumping out at his subjects like a tiger pouncing on its prey, using his camera with its harsh flash to immortalize them from an arm's length away. His final product: unvarnished snapshots direct from daily life. The art world rejoiced over Gilden and in he was honored with membership in Magnum. The new wearable photography technology, on the other hand, affords an opportunity to take pictures secretly, which is not at all Gilden's thing. There -- a woman with a bitter gaze and a lot of makeup, just the sort of subject Gilden likes.
He snaps his shot. She doesn't even notice. Taking and exhibiting pictures of strangers is legal in New York, falling under the auspices of freedom of speech and artistic freedom. In Germany, with its obsession about privacy rights, though, this right may soon be curtailed. Gilden is zigzagging through the throng, constantly engaging strangers in conversation, doing photography as a contact sport.
A driver leans, bored, against the side of his black limousine. Gilden walks right up to him, adjusts his glasses, quirks his finger, done.
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The chauffeur, too, didn't notice a thing. Gilden's photographs project the insolent attitude of a street urchin. He grew up in New York's Williamsburg before the neighborhood was fashionable, with a father who wore heavy rings on his fingers, kept a cigar clamped in the corner of his mouth and conducted opaque business deals in his used tire store.
Bruce played basketball, the dirtier the better, winning was what mattered. The crowd flows around him like a raging river. New York is getting more and more boring," he says. Hey, that woman over there, her makeup makes her look like a clown. Or her, back there, she's perfect.
He steps into the woman's path. He introduces himself: "I'm Bruce Gilden. I'm a famous photographer. He puts his hands at the nape of her neck and angles her face a bit to the side and down -- after all, using Google Glass leaves both his hands free -- and the woman allows him to do so. Gilden's colleague and antipode Elliott Erwitt takes a different approach. He shuffles across the street from his apartment to Central Park.
Passing dogs often catch his eye, since he's still mourning Terry, his mutt who died a couple months ago. Erwitt is an invisible world star, an artist who disappears behind his pictures.
His warm-hearted snapshots of dogs and people are widely known, and he publishes a new photo book nearly every year. He's been taking photographs for 70 years. Erwitt doesn't talk much -- in fact, he's never talked much -- but the little he does say tends to hit home. He, too, is testing out the Google Glass camera on familiar terrain. Couples, passersby, a dog, a photograph, a smile. Then he slips off and continues on his way.
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A small poodle appears in front of him and Erwitt bends down to arrange the background composition around the dog. Then there's the sudden sound of a loud honk and the dog jerks around with wide eyes. Erwitt snaps his picture. Erwitt was born in Paris in His parents, who were Jewish, had fled there from Russia.
He grew up in Paris and Milan, with the family speaking Italian.
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At the age of 13, Erwitt received a dog and a camera, two presents that would alter the course of his life. Drafted into the army in , he served as a photographer in Germany and France. The legendary Robert Capa then invited him to join Magnum. He took photographs for advertisements, newspapers and exhibitions, as well as shooting documentary films, all the while remaining always curious, always skeptical. It's time to take stock of the preliminary results in Erwitt's studio directly on Central Park, a darkened room that looks like a shrine to the history of photography, with enormous prints on the walls and cabinets full of originals.
Their freshly taken images are downloaded on a computer, they sit down in front of the screen to evaluate their catch of the day. They are surprised at the resolution of the 5-megapixel camera. Does the Google Glass camera allow him to get closer to his subjects? Erwitt nods. The room is a bit small for two full-scale egos, the two of them flirting and sparring with each other. And with the technology. Gilden throws himself back into the fray. After half an hour, the rechargeable battery built into the glasses frame has run down, so a cable now hangs from the glasses, connecting them to a back-up battery.
The right side of the frame is growing alarmingly hot. Passersby turn around to watch and whisper when they catch sight of his cyborg look. But the biggest obstacle is the fact that the glasses are only designed to take pictures in a horizontal format, whereas Gilden is considered a master of the vertical format.
Gilden is thirsty and takes a drink, then sets the bottle down behind him. A minute later, someone steals it. Then he notices the handsome young man behind him, in a suit and a tie and a wool hat, leaning unobtrusively against a traffic light and photographing Gilden with his smartphone. He calls over to the paparazzo and takes a picture of him. The two men photograph each other.tholamensbor.tk
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Gilden hates having anyone boss him around. It's one reason he became a photographer. Now these nightmare glasses are literally leading him around by the nose, forcing him into all sorts of absurd contortions. After 40 years of working intensively with his manual Leica camera, Gilden could operate it blind.
When he doesn't have it with him, he feels it like a phantom pain. Wearable cameras could allow everyone to experience that melding of body and camera. Because the devices are so small, they're operated with gestures -- a nod turns Google Glass on, a blink can trigger the camera shutter. That may be a good thing for young nerds, but not so much for old men.
Instead, he chooses to operate the glasses using a tiny button the size of a grain of rice on the right side of the frame, but it's far too small to be easily manipulated by Gilden's large mitts.
Confronted with glasses developed by young geeks for young geeks, the director of the streets feels the device is dictating what he should do, rather than the other way around. He's fed up. He scans the crowd and picks out a bald man. He addresses the man in broken Spanish and convinces him to stand still. Then Gilden twists himself around until the glasses are vertical instead of horizontal.
Finally, he takes the glasses off and holds them in front of him. Like a camera. Erwitt, too, is groping half-blind through the dawning of a new technology. He doesn't see well with his right eye, but the right side is where the Google Glass' display screen is located. Erwitt is familiar with the growing pains of new forms of media.
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He experimented with color film, and published a book of color photographs titled "Kolor". The "K" is an homage to the Kodak company, which revolutionized photography in the late 19th century with its family friendly cameras so simple a child could operate them and the slogan, "You press the button, we do the rest. But even the newfangled headmounted camera, as he is still grappling with its novelty, is turning into a piece of legacy hardware from a bygone future.
It makes him uncomfortable to think everything he sees there could theoretically also be viewed by others over the Internet. Less freedom. In , the painter Louis Daguerre gave the world the photograph, a new kind of image that seemed to paint itself, making it possible for even those without artistic talent to capture highly detailed pictures. Then came Kodak, which again radically simplified the process of creating images.
Then came the spread of cell phone cameras, and now the next revolution in images is at hand. Not only are shutter buttons now superfluous, but spoken commands are as well.
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Users who wish to do so can operate Google Glass with the simple blink of an eye -- you blink, we do the rest. Scientists are already tinkering with integrating cameras into contact lenses. This test run has demonstrated the democratic promise of wearable photography, as well as its limitations. It can't replace the most important elements of a good photograph, qualities such as patience, persistence and an ability to assert oneself -- against the technology, if necessary.
Erwitt has taken off the glasses and is holding them close to the ground, at eye level with a white poodle. He releases the shutter not with a spoken command, but by hand. As if the glasses were his Leica.
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