IAP Exercise 3.1: Mirrors and Windows


In the press release for the MOMA exhibition ‘Mirrors and Windows:
American Photography since 1960′ John Szarkowski, comparing the work of Alfred Steiglitz and Eugène, wrote:

The distance between them is to be measured not in terms of the relative force or originality of their work, but in terms of their conceptions of what a photograph is: is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?

Select a series of photographs and classify them as either Mirrors or Windows. Or perhaps both.




Interesting exercise. I found this difficult. Why? Well, looking at the pictures purely from the photographer’s viewpoint i.e. me (as we are required to do) I found it hard not to see many of them as both Mirrors and Windows.

Most of the images are obviously Windows in the sense that they show the viewer a scene, but many of them also seem to reflect aspects of me – either people I love or emotions I feel.

The first four images in both sets are common – in other words I see them as both Windows and Mirrors. The first two show my mother and one of my daughters. The second pair signify peacefulness, solitude and isolation – all states that I seek.

The fifth images in both sets show a guy on a beach in Scotland. But with different visual treatments. I include the black-and-white notan image within the Mirror set because it is not attempting to show the man as he was but is an attempt to reflect the mood that I felt when I saw him. The version within Windows is showing the actual scene as I saw it.

This image invites the viewer to guess what emotion is being visually alluded to. In this case, it is anxiety. It is an attempt to make the viewer glimpse into the world of an anxious person.

This image attempts to visually depict the nine diagnosable characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. It is an attempt to bring some understanding to such a complex issue i.e. it is a visual window into a psychological state.

The final three images simply represent windows to places I’ve seen.

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