We humans are one of only a minority of species that pass the so-called ‘mirror test’, by showing signs of recognition when face-to-face with ourselves in a mirror. Supposedly, this is proof of our sense of self, but still, only offers evidence of being able to identify a body as our own. Would we be able to recognise a reflection of our own mind? Would we be able to recognise our emotions, our essence, our decisions, our heritage, our passage through time?
Perhaps so, once we start to understand that a mirror can be made of many more things beyond a flat and dark reflective surface. Through some inexplicable understanding that we have with our physical world, we are able to see reflections of ourselves, and what we are experiencing or feeling, in an inanimate object like a lamp, another person, or a shadow.
Photography tends to take one of two forms: a mirror of the interior self, or a window to the external world. And through the looking glass, photographers present to us some version of themselves, hoping we will see what they see. Or, at least, what they want us to see. Perhaps each mirror image is a statement, but perhaps, instead, it’s a question.
In what he called ‘the looking glass self’, American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley described how the self can be shaped by the reflected perceptions of others around us. The more we look at someone, the more we shape them. The self isn’t singular, it’s collaborative. Just who do you think you are, anyway?
Katherine Oktober Matthews, Chief Editor