Photographic invisibility: a thought experiment

_A_DSC0912 copy
I was certainly noticed here. Apparently in the middle of a high-stakes gambling game, seconds later I was shouted at by about forty people and chased away. Invisibility would have certainly made for an interesting documentary series.

Here’s an interesting concept: photographic invisibility. By this, I mean the ability to take a photograph of anything, anywhere, or anybody, without being noticed. Nothing would be off limits, nowhere would be inaccessible, and everything you see would be just a shutter-click away. Assume for a moment, technical limitations don’t really apply – we don’t have to worry about image quality or low light or too much or too little depth of field, or buffers or file handling or curating the enormous mountain of images that would be the product of such an exercise. Of course, this is impossible – or nearly impossible unless the subject is heavily distracted, or you’re a photojournalist or street photography ninja – but stay with me for a while.

In a much earlier article, I covered the observation vs participation paradox. In short, the story contained in an image changes dramatically depending on whether you’re an active participant in the scene or not; and this is a conscious choice that has to be made by every photographer of people at some point or other – often on a frame by frame, or at very least set-by-set basis. There is no right or wrong answer here: it depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your image. Regardless of the choice, there are compositional techniques that can be used to give either impression, whether you’re part of the action or not – I touch on this briefly in my article on cinematic photography.

Putting all voyeuristic thoughts aside, is invisibility a good or bad thing? This is not as simple a question as it may seem at first. A lot of photographs work precisely because of the interaction between subject and photographer/ camera, and thus in turn subject and viewer. It’s a simple consequence of human physiology and psychology that we communicate with other people through the eyes; we express interest in someone or something by looking, and a conversation with somebody who’s holding eye contact is perceived as much more intense and sincere than one with a person who never looks at you. Arguably, documentary work is most powerful when there’s a direct connection between subject and photographer; Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful a portrait if she weren’t staring straight at the viewer with those mesmerising eyes. For that image to work, she had to know the camera was there, and be a conscious participant in the making of the image.

_RX100_DSC4396 copy
Life, purely as an observer

I’d like to think of invisibility for the moment as a liberator of creativity. You could give the point of view of a participant – think getting in and wide – without the change in behaviour that would be accompanied if you were actually noticed sticking a lens in the thick of things. I can think of an immense number of situations where a fly-on-the-wall documentary style might be extremely engaging and different; aside from situations unsafe for human presence (the inside of an internal combustion engine, for instance):

  • Meetings of heads of state: what really goes through the minds of these people? Are their poker faces really that straight?
  • Conflict, war and fights: admittedly, most of the time the participants are absorbed enough in the intensity of their own worlds that they don’t really notice photographers anyway
  • Actors when they’re not acting: what are they really like as individuals? Even those ‘candid’ images published in magazine and tabloid features are undoubtedly posed as they know the images are going to be used for something.
  • One’s own children, when the parents aren’t around: not having children, and certainly even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to photograph them without them being at least peripherally aware of it – I’d be curious to see what they did. Especially when younger.
  • Private moments of emotion, out of the public eye: triumphs, failures, happiness, pain.

We’re actually not as far off as you might think. While projects like Google Glass and other similar eyewear-based recorders (still and video) are still conspicuous enough that you’d never get away with using one completely incognito, earlier cameras like the Minox 8x11s were made for just such a purpose. The compromise was always image quality: small means small format which meant – until fairly recently, not really good enough for any serious work. We do have good small sensors now – by which I mean sufficient for 13×19″ and larger prints at high quality – and optics to match; in fact, the camera modules in most mobile phones meet this requirement. The phones themselves have become sufficiently ubiquitous that using a cameraphone in a moderately stealthy way doesn’t attract any attention and one is effectively transparent to some extent.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the GoPro and other similar cameras have experienced such success is because they let us go and observe where it would normally be impossible to do so; the results are not so much voyeuristic (though I’m sure some can  be found if one looks hard enough) as incredibly stimulating to the imagination and limited only by how creative you can get with suction cups and clamps. I admit I’d love to try one, but the thing stopping me from buying one is that I’d have no idea what I’d do with it – not being an adventure sportster, but I’ve ordered one to play around with anyway.

Given the limitations of photographic control for most of these things, I’d like to take a diversion to recommend a few of the other (admittedly slightly less stealthy) options I’ve come across and enjoyed for this kind of documentary photography: most of them are small enough to not be easily noticeable, but powerful enough to offer satisfying output and a range of individual strengths (though sadly, no one camera does it all). Needless to say, they’re all a very stealthy black. MT

The Jack of All Focal Lengths: Canon 520 HS. (B&H, Amazon) Incredibly tiny, with an optical 28-330mm  zoom. Use only at base ISO, though. Bought on a whim during an Amazon sale, and turned out to be surprisingly handy. Almost always rides in a pocket or my bag.

The Wide Angle Masters: Ricoh GR (review, B&H, Amazon) and Nikon Coolpix A (review, B&H, Amazon) Image quality is superb on these APS-C-sensored 28mm equivalents. Some of you may remember my dilemma: I bought the Ricoh in the end.

For video: GoPro HD Hero3 (B&H, Amazon). As mentioned, I’ve got one on the way.

For telephoto and DOF control: Olympus E-PL5 (review, B&H, Amazon) and ZD 45/1.8 (review, B&H, Amazon). Relatively bargain price, excellent sensor, tilt screen and a compact 90mm equivalent make it great for waist-level shooting. The optics of the 45mm are no slouch, either.

For the cameraphone users: Apple iPhone 5 (review, Amazon)

For the cool geek factor: Google Glass (sorry, currently unavailable to buy, but you can sign up here) – I had the chance to play with one at Google during my San Francisco trip; all I can say is forget the rest, this thing would make an awesome camera device. It does raise serious concerns over privacy and liability; that said, it’s pretty darn obvious if you’re wearing one of these…


Enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards here – there’s US$35,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, it’s open to all ASEAN residents, and I’m the head judge! Entries close 31 October 2013.


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!


Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Ron Scubadiver says:

    I have been hiding in plain sight for decades…

  2. Put a black Lumix FT5 (*waterproof/crushproof*) in your pocket. The lens will just peek out the top. Tether it to your phone. Set your phone on silent. Full control of ALL camera settings on your phone app. And to anyone watching, it just looks like you’re sending a text message. But you can get amazing candids. Virtually anywhere. Oh yeah, don’t forget to tape up the chrome trim around the lens.

  3. I’ve always wondered what it was like to be some one like the President of the United States who has a photographer follow him at all times, even during those quiet, intimate moments. How do you ignore the intrusion? What must that be like and what must it be like to be that photographer? I know they (the White House photographer) usually use DSLR’s – decidedly unstealthy!

    Oh, and I know you’ve already dismissed it, but I recently acquired a Sony RX100 M2. I just love it. Image quality is superb and I carry it with me at all times. When I’m shooting with it, I feel much less noticeable than when I shoot with my full frame Nikon. It certainly doesn’t have the good tactile feel of a DSLR or even a rangefinder, but I can live with that and take the portability.

    • I suspect one might actually get used to it in the end, but then again, maybe not.

      As for the RX100M2 – I liked my RX100 very much, but prefer the GR simply because it feels a lot more camera-like…and the APS-C sensor doesn’t hurt, either.

  4. Both of these images are great. The gambling scene teems with energy, even danger. The second is simply a gorgeous composition.

    I’m no street photographer. I’ve taken a few shots in that vein, but I’m just not mentally equipped for the challenge. (Some would claim that I’m not mentally equipped for any challenge.) And I’m rarely anywhere that lends itself to street photography. I have a series of photographs (as yet not fully edited) showing empty residential streets, with the title “The Sorrow of the Suburban Street Photographer.”

    • Thank you!

      As for subject matter: we work with what we’ve got, I think. Not much choice otherwise. For instance, I hardly do landscape because there really isn’t anything conducive to it where I live.

  5. just wow !
    … was looking for a simple and objective tour into composition. Also, thinking of taking couple of short-course in nearby art institute.
    Just got it. Thanks a lot !

  6. You know what? I’m surprised that Olympus hasn’t revived the Stylus line as an ultra-stealthy, high resolution counterpart to the GR and Coolpix A. With a little bit of weatherproofing, I think it would be a hit at the right price point. Make two versions @ 28mm and perhaps 85mm with HeroPro like video…?

    • And a M4/3 sensor. We’d probably get 35mm and a moderate zoom of some sort. I don’t particularly like 35mm, but weather proofing, that 5-axis stabilizer and a zoom would certainly be a great partner to the GR.

  7. Ricoh GR Snap Mode and some carefully choreographed crowd moves is about as invisible as you will get. Otherwise try a chicken suit. 🙂

    • I’d always wondered what you’d see from inside a chicken suit – nobody would know you were photographing, and I’m sure you’d get some pretty awesome images. Perhaps something to try when I run out of ideas. I suppose it’d be like a shooting blind for wildlife, except used for people.

      • It’s not a chicken suit, but will a Toyota Prius do? There’s a site that culls interesting images from Google’s Streetview cameras. It’s also a great lesson on the power of editing.

  8. Tom Liles says:

    I came into a Kodak Retina iic [1950s RF, it’s lovely] a while ago, it has a leaf shutter, is small, is a ye olde style camera — the sort of thing girls who wear flowery cotton dresses with leather boots would like — and never invites much attention. The shutter goes “snick” in a very hushed voice. I can, if I wanted, use it in the middle of a crowded train car and no-one is much the wiser, except when you wind film on—so it’s a one shot deal in that situation, really.
    [But the film advance is on the bottom, so it can be done surreptitiously.]

    The DPMs I have are similar: small, black, and v.quiet to imperceptible shutter sounds [if you’ve disabled the simulated shutter sound from the menus]. These are the ones for train cars and the like: get a wrist strap on, stand in train car and grab a ring with your camera hand, grip the camera between your middle finger and thumb, index finger for shutter], look natural—make sure the rear LCD is off as salarymen WILL be interested in your pictures too; and see what you get…

    Now then…

    I’m not a fan of the voyeurism. I do find it creepy to do. And creepy to look at. When I see images made in too voyeuristic a fashion, it just makes me wonder how ugly a person the photographer must be to want to spy on people like that. Why? To what end? If it’s an investigation into “what are people really like behind the masks” I would humbly suggest that photography is just about *the* stupidest choice for that investigation. And the real reason is nothing more than self-importance and egotism; perhaps even a form of retribution on other people… Let me just say the first two are precious and important things in my opinion and any decent artist has them in spades. It’s the third that I worry about, really. A example: look at the trailer for Zeitgenossische in Fotographie at the end of this Garry Winogrand mini-doc. Just jump to 6:10 or so and watch… That is like a horror show to me. They don’t exactly look like the most personable bunch; don’t look to be in the process of trying to uncover some hidden humanity [using the worst tool possible, a tool which can only image outward appearance]. The guy at 6:21 — the complete opposite of stealth — but, and this is the important point to me, the complete opposite of humanity and grace: that guy needs his camera breaking over his head, like a.s.a.p. It’s probably the only language and a just dessert for him. He appears in the spot’s roll call of famous photogs of the day and start to finish they look like pathological nutbags to me. Each and every one. The bloke behind a big view camera with the cloak over, and you just see a pair of hands fiddling with the lens out front—then it calls his name… Maybe hardened photogs could watch and listen to those few seconds without much of a second thought, but to me it has captured a tragedy, an angle on what these people have become, just one-eyed machines, never blinking, living a kind of agony, an eternal unblinking gaze completely free of humanity and involvement: just looking for the next image to capture. Fellow humans just become means to their end [and a selfish one at that].
    Just my opinion, but I think there really are only two ways for this “street,” “candid,” whatever the right word is, this kind of photography to work:

    1) Utter stealth—subjects never know. Be a ninja.
    2) Complete openness, honesty, and permission. Be a talk show host.

    The grey version, the easy way, openly stepping in or among people and taking someone’s picture but ignoring them as people—that is a big no-no in my book. Well, it’s not always as black and white as that — and it’d be impossible to draw once and for all definitive lines on what’s in and what’s out — but I hope we can all kind of get what I’m saying. I’m sure this is not a popular opinion, but I fail to see how photography can trump ethics. Or why.

    Maybe time to revisit H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man again…

    • 1) Utter stealth—subjects never know. Be a ninja.
      2) Complete openness, honesty, and permission. Be a talk show host.

      Agreed. The former is what you do with a GR; the latter is what you do with a Hasselblad.

      The grey version, the easy way, openly stepping in or among people and taking someone’s picture but ignoring them as people—that is a big no-no in my book.
      And this is for photojournalists – those situations are perhaps a bit different because people expect to be photographed at events etc – or creepy people on trains with cameras on sticks…

      • Tom Liles says:

        I tried one technique that I copied from you, Ming, as an experiment to see if I could do it, what would happen, how I’d feel about it, and how the pictures would look –> it was standing at a busy crossing, waiting for the green man, but not moving when it goes green and letting the people stream around and past you… Except the whole thing happens with your camera to your face, looking through your finder, and popping off shots when you see a frame you like. I’ve tried it a few times now.

        What happened: people of course noticed me, but at the same time often didn’t bother about me. Or some were bothered, and went out of their way not to be in frame. I haven’t had an “oi!” yet. Others just didn’t care and got real close to me. Some were so into their conversations, they even bumped into me. Luck of the draw. But perhaps, when we do this, as we are still and obvious, it’s not so bad. There are many cases like this, in “street” I think.
        The images: I didn’t get anything I liked [there were some interesting frames, but none to my aesthetic taste –> from the get go, a busy street crossing is a kind of cheat as people have to be there and have to be in your frame, there’s no escape for them, this might be why photos on busy crossings are quite commonplace… whatever the reason, photos of people on a crossing don’t do anything for me, just me, so I didn’t manage to catch anything I felt like keeping. The photos of people lining up to cross, waiting for the lights, on the other side of the street, however—I quite liked them and plan to investigate further…]
        How I felt: Not sure. This was one aspect of recent practice. I’ve been forcing myself to get close to people and do “street” photography this last week and a bit. That I have to force myself at all probably says a lot. I can’t do a photowalk of only this; but, yes, I have been trying to force myself to get at least 10x “people, close up” frames each outing. My rule is to stick to (1) and (2) above; if someone catches me trying to Ninja, I apologize to their face and ask them if I can keep it. If they don’t want to talk or answer, that’s an automatic delete. Only happened twice so far, both asked me to delete. I haven’t rolled up on someone and struck up a conversation and asked if I could take their portrait: I have the balls, I don’t have the appetite or need at the moment. I’m torn on whether I want to do it as I’m formulating a small idea for a project I want to do, with photos I mean, and the ethos of that project and what I want to do — as currently conceived — doesn’t fit with photos of strangers, even if we have happily chatted for ten minutes or so, in fact it’s incompatible… the friction comes from them being strangers. I’m not really interested in strangers.
        [This is just on a personal aesthetic level. My taste is everything to me, poor as it is, and I won’t contravene it.]

        I think I remember we spoke about photojournalists before. They are special case, perhaps; but it requires a leap of faith on our part that they won’t abuse their self-awarded power, and all that keeps them in check, really, is editors. Judging by the proliferation of “paparazzi” type images—I’m not so sure that many editors will swap sales for principles. Difficult subject—but that’s what we specialize in here down below the line! 🙂

        I was going to choose a D3/D3S/D4 for the photojournalist—though I think Fuji X100s might actually be the more “I’m a journalist!” choice; with the the 10fps beasts for the paparazzos [plus obligatory telephoto].

        I forgot to mention it—but I wanted to double up on what you said about iPhones, etc., actually being very good stealth cameras. Assuming you can mask the shutter noise, they are the ultimate train car camera as no-one loses a second’s thought to the sight of the backside of a phone. And the same goes for anywhere, not just train cars. It even looks like you’re texting, or something, trying to tap that god-awful focus+meter box on something remotely close to where you wanted focus that will bias the meter the way you want it. And even if people do realize the tapping is you trying to operate the camera, everyone takes photos with their camera so there is no better form of hiding in plain sight.

      • I’d like to think of invisibility for the moment as a liberator of creativity.
        (If I may, two cents thoughts)
        -look at the wave (the said situation/conditioning)
        -observe the wave,
        -feel the wave ( with all sense-doors functioning),
        -be oneness with the wave,
        -bring out the camera,
        -compose, align, wait/ breath, aware, then the knowingly CLICK!
        -ah! the wave move their own moment and I am passing my desire(-moment) to create.
        -if there is a yell, then the sound wave came from a selfish desire, and I choose to utilize my wisdom if it merit a keeper.

        Mr.Tom Liles,
        (If I may),
        Good Photographing Practices. Like!

        • Tom Liles says:

          Hi Tan YK,

          In the wise words of Lord Finesse, Percy P and BigL…

          Yes, you may 🙂

          Thanks for the advice, I’ll certainly keep trying.

  9. Hola Mr. Thein,

    I can see you in every face of the gambling photo. Gratulalok!. Second photo, a few pots, tents and one woman, just this.

    “…we don’t have to worry about image quality or low light or too much or too little depth of field, or buffers or file handling or curating the enormous mountain of images that would be the product of such an exercise”

    please be close to this rules and your street photography will be better and better. As I said in other of your post: “be brave but not agresive / be invisible in front of the people”.

    Is not depend of your equipment, is about how you approach, your feelings, what you offer to your target, you can go to the street with a D4 and a 24-70 and be perfectly invisible to everyone. Is not about equipment, is about feeling and skills to deal with people on the street. I have only a D7000 and a ZF.2 35mm f/2.

    All the best!

  10. That is a good story behind the first image and it makes the picture much more interesting. If you look closely you see that almost everybody tries to avoid the lens. Except for the two peolpe at the back with their arms crossed, who probably feel safe enough at their greater distance.

    It must have been something in the dresscode. Maybe you thought that you more or less looked like one of them, but in fact you were slightly sharper dressed. In any case slightly different so they must have thought you were an undercover. The Nikon A did not help either, but surely it was more than the camera only.

    Two weeks ago I saw Martin Parr, the uncrowned-king of candid photography walking around on an exhibition. He looks like a stamp collector or a bookkeeper. Nothing in his appearance reminds of the Magnum photographer who continuously confronts us in a cynical way with our silly consumerism. Mister Stealth.

    • No, I’m sure I didn’t look anything like them at all. I was dressed in my generic ‘Asian tourist’ camoflague which stands quite noticeably from ‘Asian resident’ – and twenty years’ age difference probably didn’t help, either. This area of the city wasn’t part of the intentional plan for the day, hence the lack of camouflage…

  11. Im going to follow your blog and link in to it link back at Put me in a text widget or copy and paste that I will return the favor! have a great day
    From the source

  12. David Babsky says:

    Canon: I use the similar (but button-less) 510 ..astonishing range, but does need very bright light (or, as you say, base ISO).
    Ricoh GR: I use the APS Ricoh GXR with the Leica-fit ‘M’ module, and assorted wide lenses (Voigtländer 12mm, 15mm, etc).
    GoPro Black Hero 3: very handy ..a video cameraman friend shooting the life of another friend (jeweller) put one in her showcase during an exhibition for close-up shots of customers eyeing the goods. Waterproof, robust, remotely-controllable, shoots anywhere. I use it at the seaside and in the water.
    Olympus m4/3: I use the E-M5 (shortly changing to the E-M1) usually with the Panasonic 7-14mm superwide ..really unobtrusive with the waist-level finder ..or even with no finder at all: simply point and squeeze.
    Apple iPhone: I never traded up to the 5 from the 4, so I don’t have the higher quality of the 5. But I find the focal length of the phone is usually wrong for what I want, so I just use its camera as a ‘note-taker’, not as a ‘proper’ camera.
    Google Glass: I suspect that the upcoming(?) Apple ‘iWatch’ will NOT be a watch, but will be an item with which one watches Google Glass. Steve Jobs had considered Apple “eyewear” (like the Zeiss and Olympus wearable displays), so I guess that’s what the iWatch will (may?) be.

    Invisible cameras have been around since the earliest days of photography: the “invisible” Detective Camera (teeny lens poking through a shirt buttonhole, with a big disc of film behind it for multiple shots), and I used to use a Swiss Tessina wear-it-on-your-wrist 35mm half-frame twin-lens reflex(!), but didn’t like its tremendous depth of field, and – when hard up – I sold it. Truly invisible. But that was proper 35mm film, not the tiny Minox film, which was -v-e-r-y- grainy. I have a little black 110 Rollei A110, but even with the best processing it’s quite grainy, too.

    For a pretty much invisible excellent quality digital camera I use a Contax i4R ..about the size of the teeny Rollei 110, but gives absolutely stunning results!

    Do I like “invisibility” by using a tiny camera? ..not really; I prefer just standing still and seeming to be preoccupied with nothing (..maybe looking down at my Oly waist-level finder..) so that I’m ignored ..and then I squeeze the button.

    • Ah, the i4R – that’s one I haven’t heard of/ seen for a long time.

      The idea of sticking a GoPro in a case and remotely photographing people unobserved is both interesting and vaguely voyeuristic…I can’t decide which side of the fence it’s on, but I’m sure it’d produce some very interesting results.

      • Bit of a tangent, but reminds me that a little while ago I read in press about vending technology and clothing store mannequins with concealed video recording. I recall vending systems were doing things like detecting gender of the “customer” and presenting different interactions (etc.) I also recall that people who learned about the concealed video were, generally, quite not pleased.

        • Automated personalizing of ‘the experience’ is one step away from a creepy invasion of privacy – perhaps because it’s so intimate and unexpected. Street photography is a little different to that, since everything is public – but I do agree that it’s a very, very thin line.

  13. Iskabibble says:

    The Fuji F900EXR is worlds better than the Canon compact you mention. Bigger sensor, far greater dynamic range (far better!) and better optical range.

  14. i suppose there is always the long lens approach, but then you loose the perspective of a participant.
    The GoPro has intrigued me for a while, particularly for candid documentary work. Given its price point it is worth experimenting.

  15. Stealth? Essential, otherwise your photographs are akin to quantum physics; the image changes as soon as you are seen. With the moment lost, there’s rarely little left to justify tripping the shutter.

    • Mostly, but not always true. Larger format seem to be the exception here. Perhaps because by this size, we are out of the quantum realm 🙂

    • Tom Liles says:

      Just to be a complete bore: with quantum mechanics and the physics you mention, paul, there was no image [thing/whatever] until you looked at it. Just probabilities in a wave-function…

      • And even when you look at it, there is no image: just more probabilities . . .

        • Tom Liles says:

          Well, I suppose photons striking nerve endings in your eye, or photons striking sensels in a camera sensor give the same Poisson distribution either way. That’s most definitely a stochastic pattern. Or if I misunderstood and we meant a more poetic reading, certainly, a fixed image is brimming with possibility [though this is really all in the beholder]… renaissance man par excellence, Roger Wojahn, told me a while back that photographs are more like Rorschach tests. And I believe him.
          [Sorry, Roger, I still can’t write your surname without flashing back to THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE and seeing the germans burn James Mason IN THE NAME OF WOTAN! Ha. Sorry. It just stuck. It’s silly, I know. But there’s such power — and fun — in the germanic words, don’t you think. Be interesting to know how common a name “Wojahn” is in the Fatherland. Or if it’s related to Wotan. Certainly the first time I’d heard it. And a happy occasion that was too.]

          But SoSC, there’s an intimate link between QM and photography, don’t you think? I’d go even further and link the entire mechanism of reality to it. I think photography is a kind of metaphor for reality: in that we observe, process and confirm existences—done every instant you press the shutter. We partake in the great ontologic language [not merely “mimic,” we partake –> because we trade in the bona-fide information packets of physical reality: photons] and we imperfectly ape the feedback loop that J.A Wheeler posited, and I believe will be proven to be correct, with our cameras: I take a photo of an object/subject, this act confirms we both exist.

          I once read Don DeLillo say he had a hunch that we love actors and acting so much because it [drama/fiction/etc/etc] is a kind of vehicle to practice facing our deaths… Well, I think photography can be a kind of vehicle for us to practice one aspect of life: dealing with what is real. I doubt it’s within our human intelligence alone to understand the universe and reality, but we can glimpse it through a glass, darkly, by looking through a lens, artily.
          [And it was going so well 🙂 ]

          • You know, I don’t think I have to write that article on photography and quantum mechanics anymore. You just did it for me in a much more elegant way than I had planned.

            Photography is subjective – both in composition (conscious exclusion) and viewing (subconscious and conscious interpretation). The outcome/ output/ measurement changes with the observer and the viewer – the measuring tool and the measurement itself can change the meaning of that which is being viewed.

            There is no certainty. There is no real objectivity. Reality is down to your own interpretation of it; a photograph just presents a limited set of possibilities – much like the instantaneous wavefunction for a particle in quantum mechanics – that changes depending on who interprets it.

            A metaphor for life? Very, very much so.

          • Thank you Tom. Not often you read a comment on a post on a blog that changes the way you think.

            So, we look out of our eyes at the world and seek constant confirmation we are part it. Further, we are predisposed to try to make sense of the jumble of sensations we receive so we snapshot fragments of reality. Some we store as memories and understanding, some as photos. Perhaps being invisible would be a bad thing, we need to prod reality to get a response that we then try to comprehend.

            • I’m just pleased that it’s that kind of site, and we have that kind of contributor 🙂

              • Indeed 🙂 Particularly liked the “I take a photo of an object/subject, this act confirms we both exist.” line. I click therefore I am. Or perhaps I click, here’s my world. I think given the choice I’d stay visible. My preference is of photos of interactions rather than people, whether between camera and subject, or between subjects. Invisibility would make some of these harder. For me I like the first photo not because its of people gaming, but because of their response to you.

        • We each see what we want to see – or are conditioned to see. And then, the ‘measurement’ certainly changes depending on the interpretation.

      • Picky, picky 😉

  16. I have both the Nikon D600 and V1. The V1 is a great stealth shooter… and the 32 1.2 lens works great with it in street photography. The D600, while a great camera, is not easy to hide.

    • Oddly though I find going the other way in size works too – I’ve never had any issues shooting with the Hasselblad, despite it being very slow, enormously conspicuous and loud…

  17. That is whats so exciting about street photography, to capture great scenes and at the same time keeping invisibility and without disturbing the subject/s. That is the challenge. Stealth gadgets take out the joy.

  18. I see (assume) from the Flickr data that this first picture is New York. Presumably a Chinatown-type area?

    Interesting that people gambling in what looks like an extremely public space should get so riled up by someone taking a picture. Assuming that the gambling itself was legal, then other than “because I don’t like having my picture taken” they wouldn’t seem to have a leg to stand on. I’m not an expert, but as far as I’m aware there’s no right to privacy in a public area in the USA, is there?

    That being said, if it were forty people yelling at me I probably wouldn’t hang around and see what they had in mind 🙂

    • Well, there was no real money openly involved, but I’ll be damned if the chips didn’t have some assigned value.

      Perhaps no right to privacy, but then again, the mob is almost always right.


  1. […] the end of 2013, I put forward some thoughts on the idea of photographic invisibility. I now realize that we can actually get pretty darned close to this: the concept of hiding in plain […]

%d bloggers like this: