Today I was driving around when I heard a broadcast on the radio that talked about the challenges of creating a quantum computer. Unfortunately the sciences were not my strongest subjects in school but, I gathered that one of the potentials of quantum computers are that they, unlike the common computer, can operate at an order of magnitude faster. Apparently they have these things called ‘qubits’ which are analogous to ‘bits’ in regular computers. However, while in ordinary computers a bit can have two states, like 1 or 0, in quantum computers, a bit can be 1, 2, or both, and it is that ‘both’-ness that makes ordinary computers look like a lighter flame next to a roaring forest fire, compared to quantum machines. However, apparently, that’s also what makes them so challenging to build and why the next iPad is not going to be running Quantum 3000. As soon as we look at the qubit, it ceases to be both and it takes on a definitive state, 1 or 0, acting like a regular computer bit. My googling tells me that this problem was foreseen by early proponents of quantum physics who proposed the mental exercise of Schrodinger’s cat as an analogy for quantum mechanics: a cat in a box with a flask of poison that is broken at a random moment in time. After a certain point in time the cat can be said to be both alive and dead, until the box is opened and the cat observed.
I thought that this bore a semblance to the nature of photography, our human subjects exist in the world in one way when unaware of a lens pointed in their direction, but will suddenly collapse into a different state as soon as they become aware of the proximity of a camera. We are both natural and acting in our daily lives. We act a certain way at work, we are mothers and fathers to our children, caring and listening to our friends, or will simply be; be frustrated, happy, desperate, hopeful. All in different proportions. Once we have a camera trained in our direction, we will start solely acting a certain way, which can be useful, but from which it is difficult to bring ourselves back to the other state, that of the both-ness of being and acting. Street photography tries to observe life in its quantum state.