Remember the days when phones were just (gasp!) phones? Before we started clogging up cyberspace with billions of images no one particularly wanted to see? Or before endlessly snapping photos of our lunch became more important than eating it? Whether you look back at those times with a hint of nostalgia or you’re a self confessed selfie addict, there’s no denying that the camera phone changed the world as we know it. Jonathan Ignatius Green’s 4 min short, The Birth of the Camera Phone is a picture-perfect reenactment of how Philippe Kahn created the device on the most important day of his life. It’s a story about innovation and new beginnings, full of heart and wit, which will make you question the effects of this technology on our lives, as the seemingly expendable has become utterly essential.
On June 11th, 1997, as Philippe Kahn, and his overdue wife made their way to the maternity ward, something magical happened. By jerry-rigging a mobile phone with a digital camera, Khan managed to take a photo of his newborn daughter Sophie and share it via email instantly, for the very first time in history. Thus the camera phone was born. The short features actor re-enacting this momentous occasion and is narrated by and includes interview footage of Kahn himself. The Birth of the Camera Phone is short, sweet and snappy, a wonderful tribute to a brilliant man who shaped history.
Whilst studying the effects of photography on modern day society, Jonathan Ignatius Green came across an essay written by Philippe Kahn. “I was fascinated by the rather odd story of that day in the hospital when all the components of his project finally came together. It seemed like a true story that you wouldn’t believe if you saw it in a movie. That’s my favorite kind” – the director recalls. He had the opportunity to interview Mr. Kahn, as part of a feature documentary, called Social Animals, but as the film evolved during post production, the experts’ interviews didn’t make the cut. With the 20th anniversary of the birth of the camera phone approaching, Green realised it would be a shame not to use Kahn’s interview footage and decided to make a short film with it instead.
As a self-confessed terrible millennial, I find pulling exasperatingly slappable facial expressions in front of the camera to be socially irritating and ultimately pointless, in the great scheme of things. I mean has anyone ever enjoyed someone else’s selfie? Don’t get me wrong; I do really believe believe in the power of technology and harnessing this to capture important moments. And Green’s The Birth of the Camera Phone took me back to what I fondly think of as ‘the innocent days’. What I like even more is learning that the first camera phone was born out of love and its very first picture is of baby Sophie Kahn. How lovely is that? Perhaps if we too stuck to only photographing those really special moments and the people we share them with, we’d actually take the time to look through them again at some point, the way we used to look through our cherished, old photo albums.
Green’s upcoming feature documentary Social Animals is in the final stages of post production. It’s centred around a daredevil photographer, an aspiring swimsuit model, and a midwest girl next door who are all looking for the same things from their Instagram accounts – a little love, acceptance and, of course, fame. Can’t wait!