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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12 thoughts on “In the Woods, in the Rain, with a Mirror and a Mamiya 645 1000s – by Brian Dolzani”
Great idea and execution. I especially love the second one from the top (not counting the one above the header). The mirror is barely visible and it almost looks like a mguy in a water bubble.
Thanks so much Martin, that’s one of my favs too. Cheers!
Variations on a theme, well executed and very imaginative.
Very much appreciated Terry, cheers!
Great concept, article and photos – wow!!
Thanks very much John! Really appreciate the kind words.
Reminds me of artist Robert Smithson’s 1969 “Mirror Displacements” project of 1969, which I always thought was brilliant.
Thank you Arthur, that’s a very fine compliment. I’m not familiar and will look up Robert’s project. Cheers.
Great idea. My friend Karlene Herdman has taken some beautiful images in the forest using a broken mirror. I purchased an old circular shaving mirror for this purpose, but so far only my wife has used it for womanly pursuits. Louis.
Thanks Louis, that’s cool, as the possibilities seem endless. Grab it back and go shoot with it! Cheers.
Thanks a lot Khurt.