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There is an interesting story about mirrors in the science section of today’s New York Times, and when I read it I couldn’t help but think about the relationship, or maybe I should say similarities, between mirrors and photographs.
I wouldn’t be the first person to equate photos with mirrors. There must be a hundred photo books and exhibitions that have the word “mirror” in the title. The most famous was the landmark 1978 show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, “Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960,” in which curator John Szarkowski brought the world up to date on a medium that was only beginning to be considered a fine art. As critic Robert Hughes wrote at the time, Szarkowski showed that photography was no longer simply a medium for “witnessing public events.” Szarkowski recognized that photography had become the way we now perceived reality itself. It didn’t capture reality so much as reflect it back in some interesting and perplexing ways, as mirrors do.
That’s why I was intrigued by the piece about mirrors in the Times. I didn’t realize how perplexing or misleading a reflected image could be. There are lessons in the article that anyone interested in photography—especially the metaphorically inclined—can take to heart.