Credit Eli Wilner & Company
In the beginning (i.e., a few decades ago) there was the word, as the Internet enabled anyone with a computer to become a writer and critic.
Now dazzling breakthroughs in speed and storage capacity have helped usher in the age of the image, allowing almost everyone to become an artist.
In 2006, only a few million photographs were uploaded and shared around the world each day. Today, that ever-growing total stands at well over two billion per day, or tens of thousands per second, according to various estimates.
The explosive growth of photo-sharing sites such as Pinterest and WhatsApp (both founded in 2009), as well as Instagram (2010) and Snapchat (2011), are fueling this boom.
Eli Wilner, the New York framer of priceless works of art whose clients include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sothebyâs and Christieâs, said that he believed that something crucial was missing from this trend: museum-quality frames. âThroughout the history of art, frames have been essential to the presentation of pictures,â he said. âIn the digital age, as more people take and share photographs, itâs important that we not forget how great frames can also enhance pictures from their wedding, honeymoon or bar mitzvah, and make them special.â
People may cherish shots of their children at the beach, or the sleeping lion they captured on safari in Kenya, but Mr. Wilner knows that few would be able to buy one of his antique or hand-carved frames; they usually sell for $ 10,000 to $ 250,000.
So he has dropped his price to zero â albeit for an app that includes free digital copies of four of his signature frames, and a much larger selection for 99 cents each.
The iPhone app he just released, eWilner Frames, can instantly place any picture from the phoneâs camera roll into one of more than 100 frames in his collection â including those used for paintings by Picasso, Childe Hassam and Thomas Eakins. With a swipe of the finger, users can breeze through the choices until they have âthat aha moment, where they know they have just the right one,â Mr. Wilner said.
Even though the world of fine art and museums still centers on personal encounters with physical objects, curators, dealers and collectors increasingly buy and sell works of art and frames online or based on digital images.
Mr. Wilnerâs first effort to introduce a framing app fizzled in 2010. The technology then was too cumbersome and slow, forcing users to insert each photo manually into each frame.
Mr. Wilner abandoned the idea until last summer, when he was having breakfast with Paul Hudson, founder and chief investment officer of Glade Brook Capital Partners in Greenwich, Conn., which was an early investor in Facebook and Snapchat. Mr. Hudson said, âI told Eli he had made the mistake of being ahead of his times.â
He also explained that two developments had altered the landscape. Faster processors and cheap cloud computing meant that his bulky app could now be blazing.
Still, it remains to be seen whether Mr. Wilnerâs frames will have the same appeal to mobile millennials that they do to middle-aged hedge fund managers and museum curators.
Does the selfie need a frame? Weâll see.