MIRRORS and WINDOWS
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
The opening post of the blog will be about the topic of the week 1 of my photography study course: Mirrors and Windows.
We, humans, are so used to seeing ourselves in mirrors. But what about animals? Do they really want to see the reflection of themselves? I don't include mirrors in my photography practice, however I often use natural sources that provide reflections to enhance the photographs.
Fig. 1: Saksens 2021. Black-headed Gull
Lockdown. Living within four walls. We are now at home more than ever. Not allowed to go outside whenever we please. But what should our pets say about this? Our beloved pets spend most of their lives within our homes, places that have become our own private prisons during the last year due to Covid-19. Do we appreciate our own windows more than ever? We certainly spend more time looking out of our windows, longing for a day when we are able to go outside whenever we want, as far as we want. Do we now relate to the feelings of our pets more than ever before? Most of the pets have no say in their daily outdoor activity schedual. We know that it is to protect them from the outside world, the wildlife, the cold nights. Well, the lockdown was implemented for the same reasons – to protect us, to keep us safe and healthy.
Fig. 2: Saksens 2021. Mr. William
I was shooting photos of Mr. William (Fig. 1), a European shorthair cat, the other day. A very sweet cat. He even liked the scarf he was wearing, or at least he tolerated it. At one moment he went to the window, sat there and looked out of it. His gaze went far into distance.
Soutter has said that ‘’It is no easy task for photography – the medium of outward appearances – to look inward” (2018: 104).
But I think there is a way to look beyond the obvious things what we see - through another one’s eyes. The centuries old cliché phrase "the eyes are the window to your soul" (that can be traced back to Shakespeare, Cicero, and Matthew in the New Testament) has some truth in it. Eyes - human’s or animal’s - are the first focus points that we look at when we read portrait images. We sympathise with the subject when we look in it’s eyes. We can tell a lot about the subject by observing how it looks at a particular object and how long it looks at the object.
Fig. 3: Saksens 2021. A cat in lockdown
The look in both, Mr. William’s eyes and the eyes of a cat seen in the photograph above, says everything – they wish to be out there, to explore the world as they please. But instead they are on the opposite side of the window, in a place that has been chosen for them. This is the difference between domesticated animals and wildlife. Our pets are not wild, they are a part of our families – they have their own beds, pillows, bowls, toys and yes – they have their own windows!
SOUTTER, Lucy. 2018. Why Art Photography?. 2nd edn. New York: Routledge.
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: SAKSENS, Ruta. 2021. Black-headed Gull. Private collection: Ruta Saksens
Figure 2: SAKSENS, Ruta. 2021. Mr. William. Private collection: Ruta Saksens
Figure 3: SAKSENS, Ruta. 2021. A cat in lockdown. Private collection: Ruta Saksens