The Mirror and the lake

The Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

What ever you see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful—

The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

I am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Sylvia Plath

A camera, that mechanical construction with no heart or conscience cannot conspire, it is unable of itself to censor what is fed into its unblinking lens except to shudder when bidden by that which controls it. Whatever light that enters the frame has no other sense of purpose but to illuminate the sensoriuos medium that prevents its exit by swallowing it whole, and in doing so creating a latent image, whether on silver halides or the charge of an electronic cell. A dumb machine producing an invisible image. The light that is guided into the lens is part of the construct of fiction and isn’t any business of the mechanicals. The mirror; Plath’s mirror, Lacan’s mirror perhaps, are mere reflections of the vista surveyed in mute attitude to whatever flickers passes by it’s field of view; ever vigilant, ever impassive, ever non-judgmental and devoid of any emotional construct, it consumes immediately and without favour.

The lake provides an echo, a reflection on what is above it or beside it; offering a misted view coloured by love, desire, by time or some other force constructed by a life lived once. It will be different tomorrow. Its complexion will have changed, more rounded perhaps and maybe, but not necessarily obviously, wiser. In Plath’s lake we see the ravaging echoes of history, those narratives that haunt and plague us, those memories once anchored in the depths but which surface unprompted, having been released by a trigger unkown, unbidden and unwilled.

This poem by Plath, that Fiona Yaron-Field cites as one of her inspirations as a student of photography, has me reflecting also on what it is that I’m working on. The ‘lake’ visage, if I stay with the metaphor, is the fiction that I see as the conduit for the truth that I want to explore about myself, and the environment I exist in. I can construct that image, I can take some form of control – or to put it another way, release the control – to explore what I feel about the thoughts and feelings that are important to me; those being my love, my home, my sense of place within all this carnage called life. To try and make sense of stuff.

December 14th 1650 a servant girl named Anne Green was hanged for murdering her illegitimate child. After being cut down her body was sent to the Anatomy School, Oxford for cutting up. While there she was resuscitated. In 1651 Anne Green came to live in Steeple Barton where she married and had three children. She died in 1959.

December 14th 1650 a servant girl named Anne Green was hanged for murdering her illegitimate child. After being cut down her body was sent to the Anatomy School, Oxford for cutting up. While there she was resuscitated. In 1651 Anne Green came to live in Steeple Barton where she married and had three children. She died in 1659.

What I have been struck by with Fiona’s work is the longevity of the work’s in progress, the student work has a clear delineation to her practise today, what was being investigated then is still being explored today, sometimes through different means, but the budding social documentarist, influenced by Don McCullin, is now providing work to ask questions of it’s viewers about conditions of people in our society. Those questions are perhaps more nuanced these days and accompanied by more conceptual work informed by her work as an Arts Psychotherapist – the ‘Sandtray’ work a specific example – or the intensely personal  ‘Cabinet‘ and ‘To cut a long story short” works. It is this last work that I found most echoed with my current investigations for assignment five. I don’t have that long to donate to this assignment, but I do have the inclination that the ‘light’ series might be the start of a much longer project. And whilst I don’t have the gift of time to apply to this assignment I have the gift of history to draw from, and a great deal of it to boot.

Westcote Barton was the home of Mr W. Cox who was the official photographer for the War Office and was sent to photograph action in the Boer War, the first time a photographer was used on active service.

Westcote Barton was the home of Mr W. Cox who was the official photographer for the War Office and was sent to photograph action in the Boer War, the first time a photographer was used on active service.

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3 thoughts on “The Mirror and the lake

  1. Pingback: Personal Project & Study day, Penarth | John Umney - Documentary

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