The Observer Effect

Captured in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Captured in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

When I’m shooting photography, the thing that I’m constantly aware of is the Observer Effect. The photo I want is the one where I’m not observed by my subject at all. It’s difficult with people. Subjects without people — architecture, nature — will behave the way they’re going to behave regardless of your presence; but with people, well…that changes everything.

I’ve seen a lot of photographers use their presence with the subject to great effect. If done properly, there can be intimacy or raw emotion or even the captured complexity of anger and surprise commonly seen in street photography. But what I want, and am not usually successful getting, is the photo like the one above.

This one works because she was posing for the perfect selfie with her friends. They shot picture after picture with these lanterns for the singular purpose of showing all their friends on Facebook how they’re living their best life now or some bullshit. But what I caught was the in-between. I was standing a good 10–15 feet away in a moving crowd. She never knew I existed. And in this photo, she wasn’t trying to pose for the perfect selfie. She wasn’t even looking at a camera. She was just trying to hold the lantern up.

On a tangential note, calling all mosquitos.