Mirrors and Windows

My first module, Positions & Practice, is the initial research for my project(s) I am going to create throughout the journey of this course. It has been designed to make us question and be critical of our work so far, and to recognise where our practice falls within the broad contexts of professional contemporary photography allowing us to establish where we want to take our work and practice moving forward. 

Our first theme to get us thinking is ‘Mirrors and Windows’. We were asked to respond to this theme and explain our concept and/or visual strategy.
Mirrors and windows is a theme that can be taken literally - shooting through windows, using the frame to frame the shot, using it as context or perspective to the landscape or subject matter, or using the light from a window, looking in or looking out. Using mirrors you can capture reflections, you can use them to see beyond whats just in front of you, you could take self portraits.
Or, you can view the theme in a metaphorical sense. Mirrors and windows can be the gateway to another world, taking you away from what you know, the reflections might be distorted or broken, abstract, other worldly, unrecognisable. You may begin to see just shape and pattern and not understand what is actually being captured. Or the metaphor can be more complex, what does a window or mirror represent? how is it being used in the composition to convey a certain feeling? why have they been included?

I have chosen this portrait of Jackie, from my BA final major project ‘Spiritual Spaces’ as my contribution to this discussion. In this project I explored what ‘spirituality’ meant to different individuals, meeting with Witches, artists, Shamans and even a High Priestess - fascinating people all in their own right. The common ground between all of these people were connections to paganism, and to the earth and landscape, but what I really learnt is that spirituality is a very personal and individual concept. We all take elements that we connect with and form our own belief. 

This image uses windows and light to convey a certain feeling. I must admit, I would consider myself lucky with this shot - we were sat chatting and I just noticed how beautifully the light came through the window on to Jackie, giving this ethereal and calming feel. Suddenly my theme of spirituality was shining down right in front of my eyes. It seemed to just completely sum up the time I spent with Jackie and the discussions we had about our own belief. 
I have, unknowingly, used a window in both a literal and metaphorical sense here. The soft light beautifully draws your eyes into my subject, yet the light signifies a lot more about whats makes her who she is. 

Mirrors and windows are used as a tool in photography constantly, they challenge both the photographer and the viewer and evoke certain feelings. Once you first notice this theme, you will begin to see it everywhere. Not just within photography but within life, I find myself constantly drawn to the pattern and shapes found within reflections. These below images are from the first year of my BA. Two from a project about Birmingham New Street Station and the latter from Tewkesbury fair.

This analogy is so deeply embedded within the nature of photography, because it can mean so much - in so many different ways - depending how the photographer wants you to view it. I naturally use windows and mirrors within my work and I think I identify with them both in all kinds of ways. I tend to prefer working with natural light, and so these become tools as well as meaning.

Metaphors are used within photography all the time “to elucidate experience” (Hostetler, 2004). Symmetry can be used as a metaphor, we tend to see it in landscape photography to evoke a sense of peace, calm and serenity. On the other hand, if you use symmetry in a more artistic and abstract way it can project chaos and drama. 

People and the human condition is my motivation for photography, I am fascinated by individual characters and how we choose to portray ourselves, through our environments, clothing, jobs, etc. I want to understand what makes us who we are, maybe this will leave room for turning the lens on myself and self reflect through a self portrait, which I have always found intimidating. However, maybe this is exactly what I need to do in order to have a greater understanding about my practice. 

Hostetler, L. (2004) The Structure of Photographic Metaphors. Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pmet/hd_pmet.htm (Accessed: 30th January 2021). 

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