Reflection on Reflections

I never consciously go out to shoot reflections. I mean it’s not something I specifically have on my mind as a photographic subject. I always have lots on my mind that motivates me to go out and shoot; a particular place, the weather, the combination of these or just my innate love of the subject and the need to indulge – but I am still attracted to reflections and find myself at times unable to resist.

In my days of club photography it was a guaranteed subject for at least one monthly assignment, I guess the idea was to get the photographer to look beyond the obvious. So what is it about reflections that seem to fascinate not only photographer but all of us so much – something for nothing perhaps? Oh, I know the scientific, rational explanation for reflected light, however as an emotional/philosophical experience, for me it’s still a curious, and at times a beguiling, mystifying phenomenon.

We look at ourselves in mirrors; how many times each day? Have you ever really looked and studied the outcome – I don’t mean how fantastic you look but what is really going on. What we see is a rotation of our form – our right hand appears on our left, as do all the other components of our body. So what, you may say; well think about it? If you were to stand behind a sheet of glass at the same time in the same position (you cant of course, but consider the possibility) then your right hand would appear on your right where its supposed to be – so what’s going on? Well to add more confusion think about this. The latter change only occurs in the vertical axis. – in other words the mirror does not reflect us “upside down” (horizontal axis) – why? Lie down and the same right/left hand reflected change occurs but our head stays put.

The Greeks and many subsequent philosophers throughout the ages have spent much time on this peculiar subject and are no closer to an answer now as they have ever been. Science will tell you much about the “indices of refraction” and perhaps the “phase of the reflected wave” but it fails to explain why reflected form changes left to right and furthermore why the human form is only seen in this manner in the vertical axis and not the horizontal. I have my own theory (not scientific or exact) and probably not exclusive or original, but it satisfies the mystery for me – well somewhat anyway!