MIRRORS AND WINDOWS
When discussing photography, it can be interpreted as either a window to the outside world or a mirror on the photographer themselves. This is true in many mediums, such as poetry, music, and literature. In the world of film and literature we must decide if we trust the narrator. Are they opening the curtain to a window of stark truth (for example war correspondence or the brutal nature of wildlife documentary) or simply mirroring their own selves full of complex emotions and often indulgent narratives? The same is found in photography, some examples are easy to see, for example x-rays and satellite imagery are viewed as factual and archival in nature on the opposite side of the spectrum self-portraits by Juno Calypso are heavily styled and follow the experience of a character completely from the imagination of the photographer which is open to interpretation and have a sense of political activism to them.
In my own work, I lean more to the mirror analogy of photography, however I like to play with the concept of window and mirrors being blurred. I am an unreliable narrator in my own work. My main discipline is self-portraiture and whilst many of my images may look like snapshots of day-to-day life, they are often styled around a narrative. My most recent project title, “Woman at home” I photograph myself in what could be seen as a window and a mirror into the life of being a mother, wife, and female today. With other images in the series being very clearly styled and visually pleasing
. In “Kinder, Kuche, Kirche” (Bare foot and Pregnant) the style of photography is much darker, grainy, and` almost has an invasive style into the window of a stay-at-home mother looking tired and doing general household tasks. Some of the images created use an actual window to further the narrative that this is a snapshot of reality.
Whereas “The Trophy Wife” is heavily styled using stereotypical tropes such as the use of pink hair and clothing and posing that is heavily directed for the male gaze.
In truth neither is an honest mirror to me nor a genuine window. It is simply a way for me to present ideas of how women are viewed by the wider audience.
I found it especially interesting when posting the images on social media that responses to the more “authentic” images” received a warmer reception, the starkness and strife shown seemed to provoke a sadness from the audience (albeit an Instagram one.) In contrast the more stylized images which were overtly flirtatious and “sexual” received misogynistic, abusive comments, accusations of creating “thirst traps "and overall received with a more vocal reaction. A real time version of a similar concept of the famous Marilyn Monroe photograph by Sam Shaw and a narrative described as such:
“Marilyn bestows a renewed potency on him (Tom Ewell) - and by implication all men – through her “dumb blonde persona” the beautiful empty-headed vixen who is actually wise.” 1
A final set of images called “reflections” in the “Woman at Home” series I use a mirror to take my self-portraits. These combine the weary aesthetics of the stay-at-home mum trope and combine them with posing that is angry, ravaged, and primal. This set is designed to show the viewer that the lines are blurred, the mirror is literal, and that the tropes from the earlier images are stereotypes that are used to suppress the humanity and anger of women. The series ends on a note of activism and feminism. Something I am eager to explore further as part of my process as an image maker throughout this course.
The role of the window and mirrors metaphor translates into fact or fiction, detached, or involved, clinical or indulgent.
One metaphor that sums up my feeling towards photography is:
“It is all one big endless loop. We like the mirror, and the mirror likes us.” 2
1. Louis w. Banner, HEIFERMAN, Marvin. Photography changes everything. Singapore: Lesley A. Martin
2. 12. Jonathan Franzen “liking is for cowards. “Go for what hurts,” New York times, May 28, 2011” HEIFERMAN, Marvin. Photography changes everything. Singapore: Lesley A. Martin