Reflecting on reflections

Reflection with orange lamp, London

This week, Kat Sloma is blogging on Reflections in glass

I’m a bit obsessive about photographing reflections, although when I started trawling through my archives it turned out I have far more photos of reflections in water, mirror, metal, or other substances, than I do in glass.

The word ‘reflection’ comes from the Latin ‘reflex’, which means to bend back – in the case of glass it’s the light rays that are bending back but this also gives it its other meaning of considered thought – ie, you turn back on your thoughts and give them more consideration.  I’m pretty keen on that kind of reflection as well and have eagerly engaged in lots of it – some might say to the point of over-indulgence but I don’t listen to them.  Studying philosophy just egged me on as far as this went and I was actually encouraged to write whole essays about this sort of thing –

Do you ever wonder if the guy in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?
— Calvin and Hobbes

Kind of makes you want to disappear up your own tutu, doesn’t it?

Staying true to my nature, I’ve been giving a bit of thought as to why many of us are so fascinated with photographing reflections. Speaking for myself – which is all I can do here – I’m drawn towards abstraction in art and reflections can turn something quite ordinary into a fascinating abstract.  They distort the subject, sometimes making it semi-transparent, and giving it a less substantial, dream-like look.  You often get a double-exposure effect as well, which adds to this. I like the sense of ambiguity and the little bit of effort that’s needed to figure out what’s going on.  You can’t usually take in a reflection picture in one casual glance – you have to really look at it.  If you look at the image at the end of this post, it can take a while before you realise that the leaves are painted onto the glass and the building is reflected in it.

I also don’t like straight lines much and find it fascinating to see buildings and other straight-edged objects take on wavy, curvy shapes.  I’ve always loved Gaudi‘s architecture because of its lack of hard edges and straight lines – a reflected building can turn into an instant Gaudi.

Someone else who likes distorting buildings is Cole Thompson.  In his project The Fountainhead, he photographs skyscrapers reflected in some kind of curved metal board (I can’t remember what it’s made of).  I think he’s had a mixed reaction to these, but I like them.

I’d love to know what it is that other folk like about reflections.  Nearly everyone is fascinated by them so if you have any thoughts on why, I’d welcome a comment below.

 

Buildings and leaves, reflected