Tag Archives: mirrors

Elina Brotherus & Esther Teichmann

 

Elina Brotherus and Esther Teichmann are the first of five photographer we are directed to study whose work fits into the category of mirrors. They use their own experiences to examine matters that affect most of us, if not all. Brotherus’s series 12 ans après is a follow-up  to one she made after first moving to France, Suites françaises, and it expands on her increased understanding of the language and society after 12 years. In the original, she shows a novel way of learning a language through Post-It notes (I must remember this in future) which is at the same time a reflection on loneliness and isolation in a foreign country. 12 years later, she returns to reprise some of the original photographs, but with the additional understanding she has gained in the interim. The notes are longer, but less obvious in the images, and one often has to look closely to find them. Brotherus’ work is always about herself, but relates to emotions and situations which many of us recognise. Having moved all over the world as an adult, her feelings of confusion and culture shock about moving somewhere new resonate for me.

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© Elina Brotherus

Esther Teichmann

For me, Brotherus’s work seems quite remote. It is considered and set up in an orderly way. Teichmann’s work is almost the opposite – chaotic, dreamy, wildy different formatting and with ideas building up over the course of a series rather than being obvious from the start. To me, it feels much more emotionally led, and the way she goes about making her work is more appealing to me. She says that the process of researching and making a piece is what interests her and the end result is not as important. I like the way she talks about using the ideas of fragmentation and  transience, and her acceptance that freedom from the constraint of being confined to one particular media brings. Her work has a surreal, non-geographic feel which is quite different from Brotherus, whose work is very clearly rooted in her landscapes. The concept that really resonated with me was her desire to explore the gap between solid reality and the inner fantasy world that we all (I presume) carry around inside ourselves, and I want to come back to this later in my work towards my current assignment. I also like the fact that she uses people-free images as part of her portraiture.

On the face of it though, I prefer the look of Brotherus’s work. It is neat and clean and very precise. Teichmann’s work is more of a seemingly random collection of images, sound and voice, which can look very chaotic, but which has an underlying thread which tugs away at the consciousness and reminds us of the private thoughts and fantasies that lurk underneath our outward adult exterior.

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© Esther Teichmann

Having just come back from a weekend of mindful photography in Venice, Teichmann’s method of working seems much more in tune with how I want to go about making my own work than Brotherus. One of the things that has been bothering me about my last assignment was the way I had to pre-think and organise what I wanted to do, and although I feel the results were OK, the process felt alien. It was too organised. I’d much prefer to work the other way, by taking images with a concept in mind and seeing what they say to me.

References

Boothroyd Sharon (2013).  Elina Brotherus Interview [online].  Photoparley.  Available from:  https://photoparley.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/elina-brotherus/  [Accessed 14 February 2017]

Brotherus, Elina (2015).  Elina Brotherus Talk from open College of the Arts [online].  Available from:  http://www.oca-student.com/content/photographers-talking?page=1#comment-72335  [Accessed14 February 2017].

Galerie les Filles de Calvaire.(2015) Esther Teichmann: in search of lightning. Press release. At: http://www.fillesducalvaire.com/press/10/48-2.pdf

A note about the content of photobooks

I’ve been thinking about photobooks of late, and how they fit in with what I learned yesterday about mirrors and windows. Recently, I was talking to my partner about possibly printing out a book for each of the last few years as a record of what I have been doing. I’d planned to fill them with some of my better images, most of which I now know are windows, i.e of places and events I have visited. No, he said, they should be about people. I quote “Nobody wants to look back through family albums and see endless travel shots. They want to see photos of people they know and especially family“. In my enthusiasm for travel and improving my technique, I realise I had forgotten that; all my own forays over the years back into the family archive have been to see how the people have changed and to recall memories of events and get-togethers where we were together. So the question for me now is how to reconcile these two polarities in a single book, or whether I should make two for each year, one of mirrors and another of windows. I am going to post this on the OCA forums to see what views other people have about the conundrum, as this is something I want to work through alongside my coursework in the next few months.

 

Exercise 3.1 – Windows or mirrors?

As I understand it, mirrors and windows can be described as follows:-

  • mirror – an expression of how you see the world, as opposed to how others see it. It expresses as much about you, the photographer as it does about the subject of the image
  • windows – a warts and all exploration of what the world has to offer, without any personal agenda.

However, there is considerable overlap between the two ideas, depending on their contextualisation, and the relationship between the photographer and the viewer can change the perception of the two concepts in many, if not all circumstances. One person’s family photos are another person’s documentary series, for example. Also, how we, as photographers, choose to position ourselves in relation to the subjects we photograph may not be what the viewer understands, and our contextualisation can a gentle steer to how the images may be read, but not a directive.

As I looked through the archive of images I have taken since taking up photography seriously, I see that I shied away from taking photographs of people, even close family, for a long time. It was only last year when I began this module that people began to appear regularly in my personal images.

Version 1 – All images are ordered by the most recent one first and they are taken from non-OCA related work.

Mirrors

Windows

It has been difficult to decide what image should go into which set, because I believe that all of them reflect my own personal response to the world rather than anyone else’s. As I have mentioned previously, I am a keen practitioner of Mindful Photography, which teaches one to look at the world with fresh, open eyes, and to photograph whatever catches my eye without making any personal judgements about the subject. I can see this in the majority of the images above. After all, I decided to make these images which reflect something I have seen, and another person’s interpretation of the same scene might be very different. All of them tell a story, with the probably exceptions of No5 in set 1 and Nos 3 and 5 in the second set. The meanings of the first set’s photos are particular to me (again a possible exception in No4), while the second set is more observational and about the external world.

There are several observations I have made during the selection process which need to be considered in more detail in future projects. Firstly, I seem to have many, many more images of scenes and situations which are observational of outside subjects; in fact, the vast majority fall into this category. When I look at the images above, I see that they are mostly taken during holidays and specific photo shoots and they are responses to those situations, almost documentary in fact. Equally, most of them are about things or specific self-contained subjects. The only ones which reflect my own life are Nos 1,3 and 5 from the first set. So, another way of dividing the images up might be

Mirrors

Windows

The exercise has drawn my attention to the fact that most of my photography is about external subjects in which I have no emotional investment. They are documentary. However, my last assignment has been more about my own life and the people and situations within in, and I think I need to spend more time on this aspect of my work, rather than observational travelogues. A test for this is coming at the beginning of next month, when I am going on a Mindful Photography weekend to Venice. My aim for it should be to come back with more mirror images and fewer window ones.

With this new understanding in mind, I went back to my 2016 archive to see whether I could collect a group of six images that I feel confident are Mirrors, and they are shown below. Not all associations are immediately obvious to the outsider, but they are to me, and each of these says something about how I view the world around me. I have included two abstract nature photos, as this is the photographic area I tend to play about in, making composites and experimenting. I have also decided that Assignment 3 will be a mirror based project, most probably on my relationships with people I have met through the internet.