The classic mirror and window analogies in photography, to me, meld into each other towards a look inside, into the unseen. As a photographer, I identify with both analogies as I see the object of the photograph as a window into myself, regardless of the subject being indeed myself or others. It is my belief that even when not in the form of portraiture, a photograph, while showing or describing an object/subject (window), always reflects something about the photographer (mirror) and their unique viewpoint.
I would challenge the notion of the mirror as reassuring of one’s appearance. Much like the photographer’s gaze towards their smartphone screen in a “mirror selfie”, our own gaze into our reflection in any mirror is posed, one-sided, not to mention two-dimensional and ultimately unrealistic. To consider photography a violation would imply that to simply look at anyone besides ourselves is inherently one, for what the viewer sees with their eyes will also give them “knowledge of them [who is being viewed] as they can never have” (SONTAG, 1977: 14). While maybe a radical viewpoint, I’ve seen this idea being extensively explored in Pirandello’s 1926 novel “One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand”, where the narrator devotes himself to the pursuit of his spontaneous reflection so that he can see his appearance (and in particular his crooked nose) from his wife’s viewpoint. Throughout the book, this concept is elaborated into a dissection of the character’s personality by challenging his own view of himself through those of others. It is not lost on me that the dissemination of photographs is, however, an entirely different topic. My argument is that a photograph may be made without necessarily taking anything away from the person being photographed, which hasn’t already been taken by the simple act of the person being observed.
Photography serves me as a tool to understand myself, my story and my surroundings, in what I believe to be a non-exploitative and research-based approach. That has meant that I turn the camera to myself on occasion, sometimes in the classic self-portraiture, posed, way. Often, even, in the form of a “selfie”. However, my more strenuous research has happened when I’ve tried to catch a glimpse of those other viewpoints I don’t normally have of myself. In movement, with closed eyes, rattled. I did this daily for a month in 2019 and have revisited this project a few times since. In a slightly different iteration, this year I have explored aspects of my identity through intentional and posed self-portraits.
Something different, that I am yet to experiment with, is exploring self-portraiture together with character building. I am fascinated by Cindy Sherman’s body of work, particularly her original Untitled Film Still series. I would be interested in experimenting with self-portraiture in this format, a format which is very much outside of my comfort zone. Drawing from Sherman’s work, I imagine photographing myself as different personas, possibly people (mainly women) who have served as inspiration to me.
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM/LEFT TO RIGHT:
Finding a sense of Belonging (2022)
The weight of tempting immortality (2022)
“That’s like hypnotising chickens.” (2019)
“My eyes are like telescopes, I see it all backwards, but who wants hope?” (2019)
PIRANDELLO, Luigi. 2006. Uno, nessuno e centomila. Milano: Garzanti Editore s.p.a.
SONTAG, S. 1977. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Sep 23, 2022