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., viewed May 29

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


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