The measurement problem….
Put simply, the measurement problems asks if an observer can ever get an empirical result when taking a measurement. It asks if the act of observing (or measuring) something (typically quantum particles) changes the outcome of the experiment. It asks if we can ever truly be disconnected from what we observe enough to measure it in any meaningful way. For more information about about the measurement problem I suggest you start here and then watch the video here.
This problem, which underpins and conspires against most of what is understood about particle physics these days, has sparked endless debate over the decades. Moreover, there have emerged popular interpretations as to what is truly happening when we measure something. One interpretation is called the many-worlds interpretation. This basically says that every possible measurement happens in some other universe in real time, and it just so happens that the measurement we record happens in ours. Another, perhaps more mainstream interpretation is the Copenhagen interpretation. This interpretation says that when you measure something you become part of (or entangled with) what you are measuring.
In street photography WE are the scientists performing measurements. The measurements we take are called photographs. Street photography isn’t bird photography, where a shooter might use a 600mm lens with a 2.0X extender on it. Street photography is a front-line activity, and is best done from 50mm down to maybe 14mm. At these focal lengths you are always flirting with the Copenhagen interpretation of street photography. There is a good chance you will become part of the scene you are photographing. Being so close to the action, you can easily influence the behavior of your subjects. This being the case, engaging in street photography compromises your ability to objectively record what happens around you. This is the nature of the genre. There is no sniping from afar in street photography, unless you are fond of cropping deeply into your photos. Typically on the streets you are an essential variable to what you are seeing.
Indeed some shooters intentionally become part of the scene. This is a Copenhagen approach in the purest sense. The shooters who engage subjects purposefully are embracing their role in influencing the scene. By doing this they lose some of what street photography is supposed to be. To me, street photography is a candid art, and you cannot take candids if subjects are posing for you or if you are running down on them popping off flashes like the paparazzi.
I prefer the many-worlds interpretation of street photography. I imagine that as I quickly compose and take a photo, in some universes the subject sees me and I affect the scene. In other universes I take the photo and go totally unnoticed as if I were a wild animal photographer using a telescopic setup. To me, street photography is best when subjects are largely oblivious to your presence as a shooter, but not entirely oblivious. There is a moment of recognition, which lasts less than a second, in which a person sees you and gives you a curious look. To me, that look IS street photography.
As a street photographer you can be a part of the scene or you can stalk the scene from the shadows. You can also do both depending on the circumstances. It’s your choice. If we were to delve deeply into these approaches there could be endless debates centered around art and morality and privacy. As I said earlier I’m a candid/many-worlds guy. In my interpretation I TRY to go unnoticed, but if I get noticed I just flow with it. Which interpretation do you prefer? Regardless of what you do, the most important interpretation will happen when you press that shutter. You need to get out there and hunt something. As always, stay low and keep shooting!
Please show me some internet love. It’s lonely in here.