Who photographs the photographer?

A paradox.

There is a village with a very special barber. He has a sign in his window that says “I cut the hair of everyone in the village who does not cut his own hair.” The question becomes; who cuts the barber's hair?

For the past several mornings I have been getting up at 5 am to try and take a specific photo at sun rise, which is around 5:45 am (are you impressed yet?). This time of year the sun rises directly to the east of The Eisenhower Bridge over the Mississippi River. At sun rise the barge traffic begins moving for the day, heading north-bound for the Twin Cities.

For those keeping score, The Eisenhower Bridge was dedicated in 1960 and is 1,631 feet long (1/3 mile). It is 35 feet wide (two lanes) and is 65 feet over the river.

The shot I wanted didn't happen today because of low clouds on the horizon. The early barge traffic was already on the move when the sun started to peek out, so things did not coordinate this time.

The shot below is the only shot of merit that I took. Pretty, but not what I needed or wanted.


I go home and then get to work this same morning when my friend Tim e-mails me the following photos and asks me if I knew who was on the bridge (look close). The first photo was taken within a minute after mine, judging by how his sun seems ever so slightly higher (factoring in the difference in height) and the wake from the fishing boat. The second photo was a minute later (I keep a corner of my eye on those oncoming tractor-trailer mirrors).



Photos courtesy of Tim Alms.


Back to the barber; we don't know who cuts his hair. It is a self-contradiction.

Does the barber cut his own hair? No, because the barber cuts only the hair of those that don't cut their own hair.

Does the barber not cut his own hair? No, because then the barber would then cut his own hair, because he cuts the hair of those that don't cut their own hair.

Using an even more difficult explanation, the barber is trying to be a part of his own set, those that do not cut their own hair. But the set cannot include the barber because he is the set. This is the contradiction.