I found this funky old mirror in my mother’s attic. She had recently passed away and my siblings and I were cleaning out the house. It had been 25 years since my father passed, and it was time to revisit the musty, magical, mysterious, barely-a-floor, don’t-fall-into-the-ceiling attic that held memories and treasures. You pulled the stairs out of the ceiling via a rope, and who knows what could be up there after so many years of stillness.
My mom passed in 2016, just when I started getting into photography. I found this mirror along with a bunch of other cherished memorabilia from my childhood. Who knows how old it is? I knew I liked it, but it was only more recently when my wife and I were making a donation pile to the local Goodwill that I decided it could be useful as a photography prop. I don’t know much about mirrors or design, but the scalloped sides felt very old-timey to me.
Fast forward to the now historic year 2020 where we found ourselves entering lockdown/quarantine, and eventually to a very slow and gradual getting back outside, wondering ‘what exactly can I do now?’ My main vocation and avocation is singer/songwriter, traveling the United States playing shows and, since about 2017, documenting it photographically (almost exclusively on film, and compiled into two photo books I’ve self-released). I travel by myself (queue the hard longing for travel again…), which as a strong introvert with enough creative ideas to keep myself occupied, is fine with me. I would not want to feel I have to convince someone else to let me turn a typically 2 hour drive into a 6 hour drive so I can hit the backroads and find some photos.
But I digress. Back to September 2020 and, What exactly can I do now? How about that mirror? I recently bought a grip for my Mamiya 645 1000s, which I’ve owned and loved for a couple years. I was OK with holding it like the brick it is, enjoying the odd girth and being a weird film shooter carrying a weird heavy thing. However I quickly learned that the grip is very helpful for portrait mode, as well as making shooting a fair amount quicker. Just an SLR on growth pills. Pop on the 80mm 2.8 lens, and it’d be perfect for this project.
What project? The one where I stepped up my brief Ansel Adams-inspired nature photos to include something different. My pure woods shots were fine, but they’d been done before (well), and I thought they were missing something. Kind of like life was still happening but was also missing something…like normality…like people. So I decided to take myself for a walk in the woods, quite literally.
I grabbed the mirror, grabbed the camera, some Ilford HP5, deciding to push it to 1600 because it would be a bit dark in the woods (it was also about to drizzle, much to my dismay), and took myself for a walk. I figured I might be good company in this lonely and strange time.
I arrived at my local Audubon, a place I’ve hiked since I was a kid. I watched the first rain drops fall as I sat in the car, wondering how weird I was to even think of this. I got out of the car, with my gear, walking one step and then the next, glad that no one else was here lending a critical eye. I placed the mirror on the ground, up against trees, on a bench. As the rain kept up, the mirror was getting wetter, and it really matched the mood and mystery of this project. I was planning on it being a normal, dry shoot, but I’m very glad the rain added its character. I metered once at the beginning with my Sekonic L-308, taking just a general reflective reading (I’ve since acquired a Pentax Digital Spotmeter, which I love, cheers Ansel). One metering was fine, as not much changed in the hour or so I was there. I only shot one roll of film, feeling creatively renewed (and wet) and fired up that I got some pretty cool frames. Fifteen (loud, boulder-entering-water) clicks in black and white and done.
My vision for this mirror/woods project was some fantasy movie I saw as a kid, or maybe only imagined…but something like the Dark Crystal, or Time Bandits…where you’d be walking in a spooky wood (as usual) and come upon a mirror that might take you into another world, or, perhaps more frighteningly, show you yourself as you are. Maybe even show you what you looked like in the woods, in a drizzle, holding a medium formal film camera, wearing a fedora and jean jacket.
I’ll note that the order I’m posting here is the order I took the shots. You’ll notice that the opening image is the only dry one.
It’s fair to say I met myself that day, and I saw, and thought, that by pushing myself to try something creative, and new to me, and perhaps strange, that I might be OK through all of this. 2020 that is. Maybe even life.
I invite you to find a funky old mirror and take yourself for a walk. You might time travel, or simply see yourself.
I developed this roll in Kodak HC-110, dil. B, and scanned with an Epson v550.
Thanks for looking. I’m a musician and photographer based in Connecticut, and can be found on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/briandolzaniphoto
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