A couple months ago Fred della Faille was on a roof, looking out at a picturesque New York City skyline. He felt a sudden urge to take a photo with Instagram, like many of us would, but he wanted to capture the entire moment — not just the view from the top of a random rooftop. He wanted his face, his reaction, to be part of the scene he was documenting. As you flip through your Instagram feed, friends’ avatars scroll by, but none of them ever change. A face floats idly, never responding to the wonderful Bloody Mary its owner just consumed.
"I feel like an emoji. Your face is the caption."
Della Faille posted two separate photos — one of his face, and the other of the city skyline, and tagged it #frontback. A few months and one hackathon later, his vision is hitting the App Store. The aptly named Frontback app makes taking two photos — one of what you’re seeing, and one of you — as simple as humanly possible, using an ingenious camera interface that juxtaposes both images on one screen as you're taking them. "I feel like an emoji," says della Faille. "Your face is the caption." Once you've taken a photo, you can post it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the app's news feed, which includes friends' and editors' picks.
Della Faille’s day job is as CEO of Checkthis, a company he founded in part to help alleviate the pressures of having to pick the perfect photo to Instagram every time you go out. "It’s kind of fake, since you have to find that one beautiful moment," he says, whereas on Checkthis, you can post multiple photos, add some text, and then share it. "The use case is super obvious, since you don’t want to spam Instagram with ten images," he says, but admits that it takes a lot longer to create a post in Checkthis than with Instagram. With Frontback, he hoped to make a "micro sized" version of his vision for storytelling, a quick way to show your friends what you're up to. "It’s kind of like a check-in with an image," he says.
"It’s you. It’s a moment. It’s kind of like a check-in with an image."
Della Faille is an avid Snapchat user, but longed for an unpretentious way to post casual everyday moments that didn't disappear after ten seconds. Frontback's greatest virtue is that the photos it produces, like Snapchats, feel honest and unproduced, while still letting you brag about what you’re up to. "We give you an excuse to take a selfie," says della Faille. The final product feels authentic, a snapshot of a moment and the person who captured it. As with Snapchat, when you tap on the Frontback app, the first screen you see is the capture interface. It makes the app feel more like a fun utility than "one more" social network to keep up with, which is a good thing.
Samsung has capitalized on a similar idea in the Galaxy S4’s "Dual Shot" mode, which stamps a picture of your face on another picture, but Frontback feels more natural — an extension of what people are already doing with apps like Diptic and PicFrame. In a way, a "frontback" feels like a Jerome Jarre Vine, albeit frozen in time during the moment when Jarre bares his infamous Cheshire Cat grin. Not every sunset deserves a well-filtered Instagram, and not every selfie deserves to be vaporized.