"Into the Lens" is a song originally written by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes of The Buggles. It was first released as "Into the Lens" on the Yes album Drama in 1980, and the year after on Adventures in Modern Recording, the second and last album of The Buggles. Both versions were also released as singles: "Into the Lens (I Am a Camera)" by Yes in 1980 and "I Am a Camera" in October 1981 by The Buggles (on Carrere Records).
The first version of the song was a demo, recorded on a Sunday afternoon when songwriters Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes started working on a second The Buggles album in 1980. When they joined Yes, it gained input from other members Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White, and therefore, "Into the Lens" features a more distinctive "prog rock" sound. When Horn and Downes resumed work on the Buggles album, the song was reworked as "I Am a Camera" - now with a tendency towards the characteristic synthpop style of that group. Trevor Horn said about the two versions:
The song "I Am a Camera" was a Buggles track and we had adapted it into a Yes track. It became "Into the Lens" and, naturally, slightly more overblown. I don't mind "Into the Lens"—the melody's unadulterated while the arrangement's a lot more complicated—but I still prefer The Buggles version. I think Geoffrey's brilliant on the The Buggles version.
The two versions feature slightly different lyrics, notably "I will never let you go, and you always let the feelings show" ("Into the Lens") compared to "I will never let you go, if you only let the feelings show" ("I Am a Camera").
The single edit of Yes' own "Into the Lens" was entitled "Into the Lens (I Am a Camera)".
The line "I am a camera" is a quote from Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin (1939). The full sentence reads, "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking." There was also a play (1951) and subsequent film (1955) based on the novel under the name I Am a Camera.
Memories, how they fade so fast
Look back, that is no escape
Tied down, now you see too late.
Lovers, they will never wait.
I am a camera
Take heart, I could never let you go
And you, always let the feeling show
Love us all, how you never broke your heart
You lose them
If you feel the feeling start.
I am a camera, camera, camera
And you, may find time will blind you
This to just remind you
All is meant to be.
Here, by the waterside
There, where the lens is wide
You and me
By the sea
Taken in tranquility.
Taken, taken so easily
To pass into glass reality
Transform, to transfer, to energy.
Taken, taken, so easily
To pass into glass reality
Transformer, transferring energy.