Sobriety and Street Photography II


I recently quit alcohol, cigarettes and staying up late at night doing nothing….

I dunno, one Sunday morning after having sex with some random chick, hungover, depressed,  I decided that I’d had enough….

There were other reasons…. the dark circles around my eyes seemed like permanent fixtures on my face, I had been drinking and staying up late for so many years….

I smoked maybe a pack of cigarettes per week. Hardly a major habit, but I rarely if ever smoked unless I was drinking coffee or alcohol….

So here I am, sober and taking more magnesium so my mood had been a lot better lately. I’m once again the scarred kid I was 25 years ago before all of this rock star madness initiated. Oh yeah, I bought a new camera too. You might have heard about that….

Many of us connect our drug and alcohol consumption to our art, as if the two are richly interrelated. It’s not as simple as that. It’s more “quantum”. Our art is influenced by drugs and not influenced by drugs at the same time. The dark places many of us call to when we generate art remains, drugs and alcohol just changes the lens we use to examine those sources of inspiration….

I never used to drink before going out to shoot anyhow. It would suck if I dropped my camera because I was drunk. Weed is a different story. I don’t consider weed to be a drug really. It’s more like a vitamin to me….

Going to sleep earlier, sober, has reconnected me to all the dreams I missed before, or maybe I can just remember them now because of my newfound clarity. I also realize that I held on to sources of pain for no better reason than to milk them as convenient sources of self-pity. I’ve made steps to clean that up….

I’m not saying I’ll never drink again. I am saying that I’ll never drink alone again. Fuck that shit. I’m not going to drink in public either, particularly at bars and taverns. I already have one fairly recent DUI and will never have another. Also, all those trendy bars and taking silly ladies out on dates can get expensive…

Street Photography has not changed for me. Well, maybe I think I like it more now….


Street Photography and The Measurement Problem

The measurement problem….

That look of recognition that defines the genre…

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.

Baltimore, Maryland

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.

Another beautiful bored bridesmaid with a curious eye…

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.

The squint that defines the genre…

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.

Street Photography can happen from a distance, but only if you like to crop.

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.

The look…

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.