Positions and Practice, Contextual Research – ‘Mirrors / Windows’

What do you make of the mirror and window analogy?
As a practitioner do you identify more closely with one or the other? 

 The concept that photography can perform as a window or a mirror has led to me reanalyze my photographic practice. The vast majority of the work that I have created in recent years has been documentary in style, bordering on the genre of travel photography. I had seen this work as performing as a window rather than a mirror, in that I depicted Japan (the country in which I was living) as it was, without altering the subjects of my photos before shooting. It is true however, the the photographer always crops a larger whole, and that through choosing what to direct my camera towards, and through editing my images, I presented a very specific view of Japan. This I disseminated to viewers living elsewhere. When reevaluating my images of Japan, I thought of the work of Sam Pritchard, a photographer with whom I had collaborated with in 2015 when curating a show of his work. Also from the U.K., Prichard’s work too focuses on Japan, but with an almost contradictory approach to my own. 


Sam Prichard, Scramble Crossing – Shibuya – Tokyo (2014) https://goo.gl/6yPo11 

Sam Prichard. Installation view PHOKUS | Future world Photography, Parades Gallery, 2015. https://goo.gl/1WAivL

Prichard had a fascination with Japanese cityscapes from a young age, and through his work it is clear to see how his photos mirror his own preconceived idea of Japan, as futuristic and technologically advanced.

 “In my photography, I try to create the illusion that it is some kind of digital future world that lives up to my childhood expectation of the place.” (Prichard, S.)  https://goo.gl/2uGmz5

My own work, in stark contrast, depicts Japan as deeply steeped in tradition. Even down to my use of black and white film, it perpetuates the idea that Japan is far from modern or futuristic.

In the lecture Week 1 Presentation 2: Windows On The World, the presenter discusses the photographs of John Thompson, a Scottish photographer whose work documented the people and landscapes of foreign countries. The presenter attributes the popularity of his work to ‘the appetite that existed for information about distant places that viewers were unlikely to ever see for themselves’. I believe that this desire for imagery from distant places so different from ones own is still apparent today. As a photographer, much of my motivation to shoot is driven by an eagerness to fulfill this need for images of elsewhere. In bringing the idea of the photograph as a mirror to the forefront, I feel that I will be more conscious of my own bias when creating imagery of countries or cultures that are not my own. Whilst my work provides windows into the worlds of others, it is clear that my images are also a reflection of my own interests and beliefs. As is highlighted by Sontag in On Photography, “Even when photographers are most concerned with mirroring reality, they are still haunted by tacit imperatives of taste and conscience.”(Sontag, 2005 p.4) Sontag, S. 2005. 

On Photography. [Online]. New York. RosettaBooks LLC. Available from: http://www.lab404.com/375/readings/sontag.pdf  

Using Format