I’ve been working on a few projects for what could be considered a long time, going on two years. The thought for the particular Mirror, Mirror project discussed today crossed my mind maybe a decade ago but I really didn’t work on it consciously until almost two years ago. It’s turned out to be a bit more difficult in many ways that I thought it would be. I thought it might be of some interest to a few people for me to share a few thoughts about a few challenges, mis-steps, overall feel, and my edit process two years in.
I’ve included ten images from the first time I spent any real time on the project. I knew from the start that the project required a sequence of images rather than just one. All of the images I included share one thing in common. They started out as 1-star or not-rated images on my first edit pass immediately after I made them. Over half of them turned into 1-star images from images that were entirely skipped over in the first pass.
One star images have a semi-special meaning in my long and winding recursive edit process. It means I don’t know why I like them but there’s something about them that I find interesting. A few of these passed over images have actually turned out to be some of my favorites with time and distance between when I made them, more experience on the project, and the project taking on a more definite shape.
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced has been that setting out just to shoot this project as an agenda doesn’t work. Sure I get a few decent pictures here and there (maybe even better technically) but not any that work for what I want the project to look like and more importantly feel like. There’s just something different about documentary captured or found moments versus created moments.
The only way I’ve found to work on this project with any remote chance of getting anything close to what I’m looking for is to photograph it as an adjunct to working on something completely different. Specifically setting out to make completely different photographs for completely different purposes even other projects and attempting to grab images for this project as candid out-takes. That works. The problem is it’s not easy, not direct, and provides no clear plan to accomplish anything. Let’s call that a personal challenge. I’m great when focused on one thing — a plan. I’m not so great trying to mix working on this in with that ”other thing”. I’m too focused on that other thing.
That might not be easy to understand. You may say to yourself, well just focus on this project instead and let the other thing go to hell in a hand basket. Nope, doesn’t work. At least not for the way my gears grind. If I do so the dynamic changes. I tend no matter how hard I try to turn it back into a “created moment” kind of thing. I can feel it. It becomes less casual which is quite apparent to whoever is in front of my camera and also visually in the images.
I’ve also found it to be a personal challenge not to even attempt to hurry the process up. It’s a function entirely based on time-spent. I can’t schedule it, I can’t get it done in a day or even a week.
I have managed to get a few shots that work of different subjects on the same day but that was an accident. I’ve got to take advantage of opportunity and that’s it. Typically those opportunities depend on me disappearing. How long that takes and when it happens depends not only on me but on whoever happens to be in front of the camera as well.
Having a discrete camera, a quiet camera certainly helps but how silent depends on ambient noise. Most of these images were made with my Fuji X100S. A few made with the Nikon D600 and 50mm 1.4G.
If you look hard enough you can probably guess which ones are which. Was more of a function of which camera I was using to make that ”other stuff” than any intent.
The other challenge that’s should be obvious but wasn’t so obvious when I started out is that what I had in mind was so narrowly focused the opportunity to make photographs is far more limited than I though it would be. Specifically situations where subjects in mirrors would be in any reasonable position where I could make candid pictures.
I wouldn’t have thought the opportunity was so limited because the circumstance is plentiful enough. For one reason or another the actual opportunity is severely limited. A personal growth experience has certainly been to allow my self to relax and just go with the flow. Another closely related lesson is that it’s okay to try anyway — even when I know it won’t work. My typical mentality that’s developed over decades has been why bother… Attempting this has definitely change that. Of course I’m absolutely spot on 99% of the time — it doesn’t work and I get the negative reinforcement of having no images that work as well. Not a great thing for my head but the 1% that does makes it worth it. Try anyway, not a bad idea.
These last two are two that I really like. The image above is one of my favorites. Specifically that one was a pass-over in my first three rounds of edits separated by months. The one below was flagged 1-star (like it but I don’t know why). Here and now almost two years later the one above is by far my favorite out of both and has not only made the cut for my first planned outlet for any of this stuff but eclipsed every single one of my initial 3-star rated images from this particular opportunity. Most of those are off the list now. A hell of a lot of them I picked do to completely external criteria that has nothing to do with what this project is supposed to be. Some stand-alone completely out of project context criteria as if some dim-witted panel made up arbitrary “goodness” criteria.
One additional note regarding the project as a whole. Since it started I have no idea what audience beyond myself this project is targeted at. No idea at all. Certainly not a good idea from a business point of view but I guess that was at least half the point when I started this as a “real project” that had no commercial thought process behind it. I do have a much better idea of what my final output will look like and what form or forms it will take. More on that some other day.
Feel free to drop any opinions or even questions. I hope I’ll be done making raw material in 2015 but if I’m not, that’s okay to.