BA Phot

I&P: Part 3 - Mirrors and Windows

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Project 3.1, text - Exc 3.1 - Project 3.2 text - Exc 3.2 - Exc 3.3 - Exc 3.4 - Conclusion - Upsum

Brotherus - Eijkelboom - Gethings - Goldin - Greenberg - Hine - Kelly - McCullin - Riefenstahl - Riis - Rosenthal - Sherman - Teichmann -

gaze -

Preamble - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Asg.1 - Asg.2 - Asg.3 - Asg.4 - Asg.5 - C&N - EyV

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My photographs don't go below the surface. They don't go below anything. They're readings of what's on the surface. Avedon

Richard Avedon quoted in Henry Carroll's Photographers on Photography (2018, p.80)

Project Page Started Complete
1. Mirrors 75 23 Nov 10 Jan
2. Windows - Memory and the Gaze 81 8 Jan 3 Feb
1. Mirrors and Windows 74 29 Nov 2 Dec
2. Your Personality  80 9 Dec 20 Feb
3. Reflecting 80 29 Dec 15 Feb
4. The gaze 85 9 Jan 3 Feb
Asg.3 Mirrors or Windows 86 20 Dec  

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[23Nov I&P p.73] This refers, of course, to Szarkowski's 1978 exhibition and book of that name where he described a continuum of expression, from those 'lean[ing] towards autobiography or autoanalysis' - mirrors, and the more 'disinterested or objective' (p.21) - windows, although he notes that there is 'a continuum, a single axis with two poles' and '[m]any of the pictures … live close to the axis' (p.25).
He states that he wishes to 'offer a simple and useful perspective' (p.11).

MoMA has a pdf of the book here.

I was mightily impressed when I first encountered this concept in 2018 and I remain so. At its most basic level, I interpret the difference as between one photographer saying 'look at this' and another 'look at me'. But, once again it is important to emphasise that Szarkowski (1) viewed this as a spectrum and (2) applied it to individual photographs rather than a photographer's work in general. That said, I take the view that a particular snapper tends towards one or other approach.
Moreover, I tend to use the concept to subjectively pigeon-hole photographers - when I spent some time in 2019 analysing the images in Szarkowski's book of the exhibition (1978), I could not tell which section was which.

Let's take two extreme examples. Don McCullin's war photographs, and most of his work until recently has been at the Window extreme. Cindy Sherman's œuvre is overwhelmingly self regarding and narcissistic (not in a bad way, you understand) - all Mirrors. That is not to say that Sherman is not trying to tell her viewers something about society and something about photography, but I think that's incidental and at root it is a tool she uses to conceive a new set of pictures to dress herself up for — again, not in a bad way — she has defined and cornered this market and deserves the right to milk it.

The cmat (pp.73-4) offers two interpretations of each category:
Mirror I - teaches the viewer more about themself
Mirror II - is being used by the photographer to explore aspects of themself
Window I - well actually they both amount to the same thing, a more (or less) objective view of something external to the photographer and/or the viewer.

I don't really agree with that interpretation, I'll stick with Window = Objective; Mirror = Subjective; in both cases the viewer's interpretation is filtered through baggage and may negate the photographer's intention.

The cmat warns that by using 'the terms mirrors and windows we risk reducing the medium to a binary and simplistic form' (p.74). That is not really a fair reflection of Szarkowski's thesis because he made it clear that:
1. it is applied to individual photographs;
2. it is a spectrum and most photographs are positioned near the centre;
3. assignment is a personal, subjective and changeable exercise.

The cmat concludes,

For the sake of Part Three, however, we’ll define these terms from the point of view of the photographer. That is, if the photographer is an insider, we’ll frame it as a mirror; if they’re outside looking in, we’ll frame it as a window. You may wish to challenge these notions in your responses to exercises and assignments. That’s fine, as long as you use effective strategies and critical analysis to back up your point and give reasons for your methods and intentions. I&P p.74

Exercise 3.1

[29Nov] Categorise 10 of your photographs as Ms or Ws.

This is shown on a separate page.

I conclude,

It has been clear to me since encountering Szarkowski's M/W notion a few years ago that my natural tendency is towards the Windows end of the image spectrum because, as stated above, I believe the purpose of most photographs should be to show what things looked like at the time. Using the output of previous courses is, in some ways, a misleading guide to my photo-proclivities because I am being forced to photograph subjects that I would not normally address. But it is equally possible to argue the contrary view that it is only when extended that my true nature will be revealed.
For now, I will conclude that I am a natural Windower with nascent Mirror tendencies occasionally emerging. Exc. 3.1


Mary Kelly
b: 1941 Fort Dodge, Iowa
Site - Tate - Wikipedia

[8Dec] The cmat states that the photographer as mirror model can be viewed as egotistical but it can also enable an informed perspective on a matter of wider interest and gives the example of ' Mary Kelly’s widely-acclaimed Post-Partum Document (1973–79), a six-year documentation of the artist’s experience of motherhood, detailing her experiences of loss and discovery' (I&P p.65). Following on from Antepartum, 1973 , Post-Partum..., as one might, expect picks up after the birth. Judging from the examples shown on the artist's web site, this project includes elements incorporating records of what the baby has been fed and images (or possibly examples) of the consequential nappy liners. Of the Standard Six, Kelly only gets a mention in Wells (2009, pp. 429, 441) and there only briefly.

The Guardian describes Kelly as 'the mother of all feminist artists' (Fowler, 2015). The article shows what it calls an 'outraged headline' from the 'Standard' that proclaims 'After the Tate's Bricks', 'On show at the ICA ... dirty nappies!' (the ICA itself took pleasure in the Guardian piece and tweeted the image, fig. A2, ICA(2015)).

Some of the more recent projects shown on Kelly's site are:
Peace Is The Only Shelter, 2019, a silhouetted person in a variety of locations holding a translucent umbrella with peaceful messages, this in support of recent revitalisations of Cold War peace movements.
Interim, 1984-89 was an installation covering several projects largely dealing with the ageing process, for example, Part 1 Corpus in which Charcot's studies of 'female hysterics' is reconsidered in terms of 'popular medicine, fashion and romantic fiction' (LACE, 1998).
Mimus, 2012, one of her clothes-dryer lint works dealing with aspects of McCarthyism.

Fowler (ibid.) describes her medium thus,

For some years, her primary medium has been lint – you know, from a tumble dryer. Like the dirty nappies, the material can seem like an invitation to scoff, but it’s designed to emphasise the workaday. Dryer lint is, of course, more familiar to most people than bronze, canvas or oils. The sad humour is there, too: she uses the fluff to make ephemeral war memorials, which often display the words of victims of violence. Fowler, 2015

Film, 8 mm transferred to DVD, black and white, no sound, 90 second loop 'a single close-up shot that records the artist stroking her abdomen, at full term, as the unborn baby moves', Tate (n.d.)

By a happy coincidence I today came upon a nice quote from Joan Didion in the camera i, a collection of photographers' self portraits (that would have been a boon for C&N Asg.3)

… however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable "I". Joan Didion

I don't agree, this only addresses the mirror end of the M/W spectrum, but it might prove useful.

Kelly ICA Brotherus Teichmann
Box A
1. Mary Kelly, Nappy lines, from Post-Partum Document, 1974
2. ICA tweet of a Guardian article, 2015
3. Elina Brotherus, Le Reflet, from Suites française I series, 1999
4. Esther Teichmann, Untitled from Fractal Scars, Salt Water and Tears, 2012-2014, C-print and cyanotype
© the artists, their agents or their estates
fig. 1 from; fig. 2 from Twitter; fig. 3 from I&P p.76; fig. 4 from
Elina Brotherus
b: 1972 Helsinki
Artist's site - Wikipedia

Next, Elina Brotherus (fig. A3), who we met in C&N Part 3. We are referred to an interview extract at (the full 48 minutes is here — I would summarise her view as, follow your intuition when you photograph and do the thinking later; sincerity is more important than style. That seems pretty sensible, especially bearing in mind that you are probably pointing your camera at something you intended to be near to and for a specific purpose.

Esther Teichmann
b: 1980, Germany
Site - Flowers Gallery

See DIC.

Then Esther Teichmann (fig. A4), who works across media, incorporating painting, text and photography. Teichmann's inclusion of her life into her work is tangential and lyrical, rather than literal. In this context, the cmat advises,

Using mirrors of the self does not have to result in highly personal, therapeutic work, although it might. Think carefully about the issues you want to avoid and what you’re willing to make public should you decide to take this route. There are sophisticated ways of portraying situations that don’t entail divulging everything. I&P p.77

Hans Eijkelboom
b: 1949 Arnhem
Site - Wikipedia

Hans Eijkelboom (I&P p.78) is mentioned in connection with photo-projects with political or social intent — as he appears, these are regarded as 'holding a mirror up to the society and culture around us'. He is described as 'a Dutch artist with a sense of humour' (ibid.) and four of his projects are described, all shown at Rencontres D’Arles, 2014.

In de Krant (Being in the Newspaper) in which he contrived to be included peripherally in a series of photographs on the front page of a local newspaper (fig. B1).
10 Euro Outfit with him wearing inexpensive clothing (fig. B2).
With My Family where he persuaded wives to let him pose as their husband in a family photograph (fig. B3).
Identity - this might have been a retrospective at the Hague Museum of Photography.

We can speculate whether Trish Morrissey's Fronts project, encountered in C&N Part 3 drew its inspiration from Eijkelboom's With My Family.

[19Dec] More recently with Street Fusion: Bristol in 2019, he ran an exercise which might prove useful in I&P under Covid where a new Tier 4 was announced today. Eijkelboom took hundreds of photographs in the city centre and then played a sort of photo-snap with the outcome, for example, matching people with small dogs or with matching t-shirts (figs. B4 and B5) (White, 2020).

Eijkelboom Eijkelboom Eijkelboom Eijkelboom Eijkelboom
Box B
1. Hans Eijkelboom, from In de Krant (Being in the Newspaper)
2. Hans Eijkelboom, from 10 Euro Outfit
3. Hans Eijkelboom, from With My Family
4,5 Hans Eijkelboom from Street Fusion: Bristol in 2019
© the artists, their agents or their estates
fig. 1 from Catwiki; 2 and 3 from The Guardian; 4 and 5 from

The cmat (p.78) concludes, 'Although Eijkelboom uses himself in these pictures, he is making wider comments on identity and perception. In many ways he is denying his own identity to the camera by deferring to other people’s opinions. ' and then contrasts the approach of two other practitioners.

Cindy Sherman
b: 1954 New Jersey

Cindy Sherman

[29Dec I&P p.79]
Sherman we know well from previous course references and the recent NPG show. The cmat describes Sherman's use of, 'grotesque and deliberately exaggerated reality which holds a mirror up to ways of living we can blind ourselves to and come to consider normal'.

Nan Goldin
b: 1953 Washington DC
Guardian - Wikipedia

Nan Goldin

Golding made her name photographing the lives of her (then termed) 'outsider' community. The cmat states, ' she questions the role of society in offering acceptance, love and hope to all people. By holding a visual mirror up to herself and her friends she holds a metaphorical mirror up to wider society and questions morality and ‘right living’ in a shocking and provocative way'.

We should not ignore the fact both have made a handsome living from the craft, with their photographs selling well. (A 1981 Sherman sold for $3,890,500 in 2011 ( and Goldin's, while not in that league, routinely sell for $000s at Christie's). Both were into the photography-as-art boom early and cornered their particular market niches. That said, I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of their work and regard Sherman's Film Stills as masterpieces. As usual, doing it first and doing it well is the key to success.

Exercise 3.2

Exercise 3.2

This is shown on a separate page.

I conclude, rather against the grain of the course material, that self awareness only dawns with, to misquote Wordsworth, intimations of mortality.

Exercise 3.3

This is shown on a separate page.

The use of photography (often dishonestly) by national Establishments to maintain the power, often at the expense of the individual is examined with examples of the Victorian poor, the Suffragists and in warfare.


[21Feb] Szarkowski's M&W (look at me vs. look at how I see the world) concept is introduced with some examples.

I&P Part 3 References

anon. (2018) We’ve always known that National Geographic is racist [online]. Available from [Accessed 9 January 2021].

Bloomfield, R (2017) Expressing your vision. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. [EyV]

Boothroyd, S. and Roberts, K. (2019) Identity and place. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. [I&P]

Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Abingdon,Oxon: Routledge.

Burt, E. (2020) Comic Relief to stop producing ‘white saviour’ appeal films [online]. Available from [Accessed 10 January 2021].

Carroll, H (2018) Photographers on photography. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Chandler, D. (1998) Notes on ‘The Gaze’ [online]. Available from [Accessed 16 January 2021].

Elkins, James (1996): The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing. New York: Simon & Schuster

Fowler, W. (2015) 10,000 revolutions: meet Mary Kelly, the mother of all feminist artists [online]. . Available from [Accessed 13 December 2020].

Gernsheim, H (1962) Creative photography: aesthetic trends 1939-1960. London: Faber & Faber.

ICALondon (2015) On show at ICA...dirty nappies! [online]. Available from [Accessed nn December 2020].

Jansen, C. (2017) Girl on girl: art and photography in the age of the female gaze. London: Laurence King.

LACE (n.d.) Mary Kelly / Interim Part 1 Corpus [online]. Available from [Accessed 14 December 2020].

O'Hagan, S. (2014) Arles 2014: Hans Eijkelboom and the unbearable Dutchness of being [online]. Available from [Accessed 19 December 2020].

Salkeld, R. (2018) Reading Photographs. London: Bloomsbury

Szarkowski, J. (1978) Mirrors and Windows. New York: MoMA.

Szarkowski, J. (1978) Mirrors and Windows. [online]. Available from [Accessed 23 November 2020].

Tate (n.d.) Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979 [online]. Available from [Accessed 10 December 2020].

Wells, L. (2009) Photography: a critical introduction. (4th edn.). Abingdon: Routledge.

White, R (2020) The photographer proving we’re not so different after all [online]. Available from [Accessed 19 December 2020].

Page created 23-Nov-2020 | Page updated 24-Feb-2023