R E  F L E C T I O N S

My folio, Reflections, is inspired by the broad concept of self esteem. Self Esteem is all about physical appearance and physique and it is impacted by relationships, culture, values and community. Part of self-esteem is innate and part of it is environmental. I focused on the environmental aspect, outside influences that affect the view of the self.

My intention was to to represent the act of looking into a mirror. Each image is about the performance, the interaction between each person and their own reflection.

I came about this way of representing the concept through my research. I asked the people around me (friends, family, colleagues) to share their self-esteem related issues. An overwhelming amount of people said looking in the mirror bought about feelings of inadequacy. I wanted to explore the the way a person looks at themselves.

I set up the mirror to the left of the camera and asked each person to look at themselves. I tried not to direct them too much, I waited until they stopped posing for the camera and I saw the moment of contemplation. Everyone has a serious look on their face, some of them appear sad, concerned or very reflective. This is consistent to my approach of seeing the mirror as negatively impacting self-esteem. The people in the images are the people in my life. I plan to continue to explore this concept further and be more selective about the group (for example all males then all females).


“The act of looking in the mirror affects what the image will be.” –  Duane Michaels

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Inspiration: Clare Strand







Clare Strand’s work has probably permeated my photography throughout the semester. I looked at her work early on but didn’t find any kind of resonance. However, she is one of those artists I keep coming back to. I looked at her stuff again just recently and this time something made sense about it all. Like the second time you read a book, you pick up on things that weren’t so apparent the first time.

Sometimes I feel like there are two types of photographers.. those who deliberately make images that comment on photography itself, and those who do not. Clare Strand seems to me to be one of those photographers who wants to take photographs to investigate photography. I like to look at these kinds of images but I don’t know if it really interests me to make images like this. Although ant photograph is arguably a comment in photography, to make a series of it all seems very 90’s to me.

While looking over all over her work I found an interesting review by David Campnay. I thought this was interesting:

‘“Research” has become a chronically earnest concept in contemporary art. So often the artist is supposed to “conduct” it in lieu of making things up, in order to be able to account for what he or she is doing. Artists who conduct research seem like safe bets: funding bodies like them. Curators, publishers, biennials and buyers like them.’

I think the image with the scissors is superb. Probably because I like these so much:

John Stezaker ‘Love XI’, 2006


Un Chien Andalou, 1929


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Inspiration: The Oatmeal

Because inspiration comes in all forms, and The Oatmeal is a genius.


What You See In The Mirror by The Oatmeal










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Inspiration: Duane Michaels

Dr. Heisenberg's Magic Mirror of Uncertainty, 1998michals_pp_04b michals_pp_04c michals_pp_04d michals_pp_04e michals_pp_04f

Dr. Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty, 1998

I like Duane Michaels work, I also like what he has to say about photography. This series is interesting to me because I have been considering the act of looking into a mirror. He shows the complexity of looking at your own reflection visually through the use of the warped mirror and handwritten text on the images (I love photography + text, very hard for it to be remarkable). I think what he might be trying to say is that our reflection is always warped? Hours of pondering follow looking at this work.

  • “Odette can never be sure with any certainty which reflection of herself she will see in the mirror.”
  • “The act of looking in the mirror affects what the image will be.”
  • “Uncertainty permits anything and everything”.


In case anyone is actually reading this blog, here is an example of what I love about what Duane Michaels has to say about photography. Particularly significant because my folio is a series of portraits that say nothing about the person photographed, but a lot about the ‘act’ they are in, about what I want to say not about the person themselves…..

“My writing grew out of my frustration with photography. I never believed a photograph is worth a thousand words. If I took a picture of you, it would tell me nothing about your English accent; it would tell me nothing about you as a person. With somebody you know really well, it can be frustrating. Sixty per cent of my work is photography and the rest is writing.”






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Research: Mirrors

“The mirror is just a surface. It’s what we see in the surface that is important. And what we see is always an illusion of sorts.” (Pendergrast 2004)

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” (Berger 1972)


I read an article about a reporter who lived for a week without looking into a mirror. It reminded me of something I read in The Creative Habit – if we deliberately don’t look at ourselves in a mirror we start focusing more on what we do rather than what we look like. It will also make us consider the difference between how we see ourselves, and how we think others see us…

In the article the woman goes to extremes like not using public toilets or going to restaurants, even going to a special gym and a special swimsuit store that specifically omit mirrors for the psychological benefit of their customers. I found this great statement by Merryl Bear, director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre.

“A reflection is merely a representation of the self, but we create the self with feelings and beliefs that we internalize. A reflection is neutral. It is only when we colour it with our internal responses that it takes on meaning.”


Frida Kahlo. Fulang-Chang and I. 1937

Frida Kahlo. Fulang-Chang and I. 1937

Frida Kahlo’s was apparently surrounded by mirrors, and like many artists, used them to paint her self portraits. This one is particularly interesting to me, Fulang-Chang and I was given to her friend as a gift accompanied by a mirror so that they could always be together – when you stand up to the portrait of Kahlo you see yourself in the mirror next to it. I like the way that you get to participate in the artwork.


Girl Before A Mirror, 1932

Picasso, Girl Before A Mirror, 1932




Berger, J 1972, Ways of Seeing, British Broadcasting Company & Penguin, Great Britain.

Kobayashi, E 2007, ‘Forsaking Vanity’, The Toronto Star, August 4 2007.http://www.spynga.com/file_library/buzz/25_thestar2.pdf, viewed May 29

Pendergrast, M 2009,  Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with ReflectionsBasic Books, New York.


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Folio: work in progress

Looking in mirror-1  Looking in mirror-2

I’m really happy with the way these turned out: looking into the mirror, mirror not in frame. I often find that the simplest approach is the strongest – there is something quite sombre about these images, a quiet serious moment, and that is what I’m trying to say.


My concept is inspired by the broad concept of self-esteem. Not necessarily low self esteem or high self esteem, but the way that we regard ourselves. By definition self esteem is all about physical appearance and physique, and is affected by values, family, etc.

In my research I was asking everyone how they regarded themselves – the mirror

I wanted to catch the moment, the interaction between the person and their perception of themselves, so it becomes a bit performative.

“According to Markus and Kitayama (1991), Western cultures foster an independent view of the self as a unique individual who is separate from others. In contrast, Asian cultures encourage an interdependent view of the self as part of an interconnected social matrix. The interdependent view leads people to define themselves in terms of their social relationships”
(Weiten 2003)


  • It’s about the interaction that we have with ourselves when we look into a mirror
  • We see our mirror image, which is normal to us – so what we see and what others see is different
  • Unless we are looking at photographs of ourselves, mirror image is how we see ourself (opposite)


This is an image of Steph looking into the mirror. The mirror is out of the frame and this is her face, not her reflection. So this is a picture of what people who look at Steph see.


This is the flipped image of Steph – the mirror image, so how she would see herself when she looks in the mirror.

Steph-2 flipped



Weiten, W 2003, Psychology: Themes and Variations, 6th edn, Wadsworth Publishing, Australia.

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