Thursday 17th June 2021
Photographs: Samantha Clark
Words: Samantha Clark
Photographer, Samantha Clark shares a selection of images from her work with mirrors. Exploring her own curiosity for seeing ‘The Mirror as A Window', Sam's series integrates her own interest with her lived environment, bringing together photographer and subject in each image.
Alongside reflections on each photo and its context, Sam shares a collection of tracks that she associates with them in this Front Left Reflections piece...
‘Cemon Parmos’ - Glasgow - 2021
June 4th, the latest of my photographs in a place that feels like home in Glasgow; the day I received my results, the day me and Rachel went to Edinburgh Zoo, the day Abby decided to make my hometown meal Parmos for tea, one of those days that never goes wrong, no matter what’s going on. This day is the only one that matters. You can see Abby in her checkered pattern apron, possibly putting something in the bin, possibly queuing a song on the speaker or maybe just going past.
When I take my images its quite impulsive and responsive, they are never planned. I’m usually going about my normal day and just have this sudden moment where something looks/feels right, and then I take it. In this image specifically we were just listening to music, when I looked up, seen the mirror and had that feeling. I’m pretty sure ‘I Love Your Smile’ was playing…I like how the mirror is in prime focus, yet we remain quite hazy in the reflection.
My ongoing series with reflections, mirrors and windows began when I came across the book ‘Vivian Maier, Self-Portraits’ and a question I found within it posed by John Szarkowski, “Is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?”.
“I really like the colours” – Scott Street, Glasgow - 2021
Buying a 35mm film disposable camera from Boots is where my image-making began, simply and quite naively taking photographs with a friend as ‘experiments’ and not knowing where it would then take me. Despite having little knowledge of the technical side of image-making, I decided to act on impulse after becoming engrossed by women photographers I’d studied, mainly Vivian Maier. At the time a disposable camera was the quickest and cheapest way to make these experiments with film. However, getting them developed would soon change this ‘quick-cheap experiment’, I would then have this ‘revelation’; my newfound love with making images... and go on to buy 7 more disposables and then finally get this SLR film camera.
I am currently making my 9th series. This photograph is from series 7 which are the first images I’d ever taken on this film camera, and when I got the scans back from Gulabi, the first thing I thought was “oh I really like the colours”. It was also at this time I became obsessed with Queen because of the movie ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, so the headphones you can see, you can bet that’s who was playing.
“Grandad open ya door and hold this a sec” – Teesside Steelworks - 2021
This image comes from Series 4 that was made whilst I was home during the pandemic, it’s also part of the work I recently exhibited at the ‘Alternative Degree Show Festival’ in Mid Wharf Art and Design, Glasgow. The work presented 4 A3 inkjet mounted images depicting and representing Teeside Steelworks, specifically Redcar’s blast furnace - Middlesbrough’s oldest foundry. The 4 pieces were installed by fishing wire and bulldog clips onto a big metal frame I found on site, the site really added to the images, because of the industrial environment and feel.
My hometown is renowned for its post-industrial developments mainly regarding iron and steel and this all tied in, and I feel was highlighted by the exhibition’s site/findings. I really love this photograph of me and my grandad; we always blast tunes together in the car, 'Devil Gate Drive' is one of his favourites and he usually cranks it up as soon as he hears “HEY, you all…”.
‘Mirrorsbrough’ - Middlesbrough, Transporter Bridge - 2021
This photograph marks the beginning of my image-making, taking this full mirror around Middlesbrough’s well-known landmarks and sites, and not knowing how these images were going to turn out. I guess that’s what I’m enjoying most about film photography; there’s no room for overthinking, its impulsive, you have to wait, you have to allow the waiting process of the negatives being developed before seeing the outcomes. That’s why I find using the mirror alongside the camera so interesting and inspiring because it’s this contrast of immediacy; with the mirror you get that immediacy of seeing an image, yet with the film camera you must wait to see the image.
Now looking back at this photograph and series it was definitely one that made me realize the direction I wanted my work to follow, this kind of ‘image within an image’ aspect. The mirror I was using ended up smashing at one point whilst working, yet I decided to just carry on working with these broken fragments, which is shown in the previous image of my grandad. I think my most experimental works so far were made because of this fragmentation. (I also chose this song because looking at this image really makes me miss home, when I get the train back, the bridge is the first thing I see coming into Middlesbrough station).
‘Jungle George’ - Edinburgh Zoo
It seemed right to start this feature with June 4th and end with June 4th, a lovely wholesome day. I guess this is where I’m at, still figuring out and documenting my place in the world wherever it is that I am. We are all always confronted by our own image within reflective surfaces placed around us in the modern world, reminded of our existence.
I think this photograph is a good example of my ideas; you go to a zoo to look through windows at animals, like a mirror you look through it to see yourself, we don’t look at the window or the mirror as objects themselves, but as a sort of passageway to see something else. By capturing my own reflection here, I wonder, am I still looking through the window? Does the window become a mirror? My brain is just a place full of strange and curious questions. I guess through making images these questions can begin to be explored.
Lastly, I chose this song because it’s dear to me, and the person who it’s for would go mad if they didn’t get a little shoutout. But Gabrielle does say “through my window” in the song, so I guess it also connects to the image.
Find more of Sam's work on Instagram.