Friday, November 06, 2009

when the camera is facing a mirror and covered in paper...



i recently picked up this cyanotype of herbert s. smith. it is a self portrait, taken on july 4, 1890, created by pointing the camera into a mirror. smith owned the "smith wheel chair concern"(not sure what that was, but it would definitely make a great band name), which, at the time, was at 120 william st. in new york.

as you can see from the detail, the camera is covered in white paper. i'm not sure of the reason for this "modification" but it makes the visible parts of the camera look a bit like a small constellation. the photograph came out of a scrapbook, with a ton of notation on each shot, (which is how we know this is a self portrait and shot into a mirror), but he did not mention the white paper covering. (if anyone out there has an idea about this, i'd love to hear from you.)

while my photograph collection mainly dances around the idea of music and listening, i've found myself lately also buying certain photographs, like this one, that have nothing to do with music. as i look at this more recent obsession with images that seem to have nothing in common (other than their non-music-ness), i try, as always, to figure out how they might be connected, so that i can somehow begin to understand, as well as to articulate, at least to myself, what i might be looking for, and to have a sense of what i'm "building" through this secondary arm of the collection, as i'm convinced there is a thread, or two, or twenty...

as for smith's self portrait, the thing that makes it extraordinary for me, is that we are seeing the photographer/camera's view and the subject's view at the same time. smiths eyes seem to be keyed on the spot on the mirror that the lens would also be "seeing". in looking directly at smith's eyes and the camera's lens, you can really feel that "V" shaped line bouncing from eyes to mirror to lens; and of course, this image is as it would've been seen if there was a lens, or an eye, in that exact point in the mirror where smith's eyes and lens' gaze met...

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Anonymous c-dub said...

The paper may have just been an attempt to reduce light leaks...? White paper would seem an odd choice, but that's all I've got.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

You Look Good

11:31 AM  

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