3.1 Mirror / Window from archives


Well that was an interesting trawl through my photographic history.  I don’t have my film/print archive at the moment – it is being skillfully curated by my daughter – but I suspect I would notice strong similarities between that and the digital version.  The earlier would feature mainly kids and wine.  The later digital, sea and food.

Categorizing photographs on the basis of mirror/window is tricky at the best of times, more so in the case of personally taken pictures.  The very act of making the photograph places the photographer somewhere between participant and observer, not least because of the necessity to actually be present at the time.

I have categorised my own choice by identifying those pictures which I participated in as ‘mirrors’ and those at which I was largely an observer as ‘windows’.  A noticeable feature of the ‘mirror’ pictures is their singular lack of meaning for an observer without knowledge of the context surrounding them.  A patch of sea, for example, looks very much like any other* to the casual observer but for me it may hold deep significance.

This is a problem, for me at least, with a good deal of contemporary photography.  The images rely for the most part on support from the maker, in the form of explanatory text.  This is because they are profoundly ‘mirroring’ the photographer’s experience, which without common experience is meaningless for the viewer.

So what can we say about a photograph?  How can we articulate it’s effects?  We have a limited range of responses at our disposal; mainly we can give voice to the content and to the form.  We may allow our personal experiences – our commonality – to influence our interpretations.  But each of these responses lean heavily on the ‘mirror’ aspect because our responses – the ways we perceive a picture – are deeply influenced by who we are, and how we got that way.  It might be fair to say that every  photograph ends up a mirror.

* Not really. Each patch of sea is unique and reveals important (if you’re on it) information about the circumstances surrounding its appearance.