'I Am Your Mirror'

I met James, the Business man

James is the second “stranger” I met for my project “ I am your mirror”. I call him the business man.

 

My first idea was to photograph myself and twelve strangers that I would find through the Internet.

These strangers, unpaid, would be free to choose a time and place to be photographed.

 

They could express themselves as they wished, and could be anonymous, or not. I asked the strangers to look at the camera as if a mirror.

James, the Business man, 'I Am your Mirror" (2013/2014)

One night, I received an email from him. He answered to my advert on gumtree.com saying that he was interested in my photography project and he wanted to take part.

 

He asked me if I could meet him somewhere before for a chat and introduction. I said enthusiastically yes!

 

I met him in a coffee shop near London Bridge. The first question he asked me when he met me, was why I am doing "I am your mirror" photography project.

 

Honestly, at that time, I didn’t know why I was doing this project with strangers, there was no structure in my mind, no a written planned project, so I didn’t know what to answer.

 

The project for me was a urge of looking for human connections, meeting those ‘strangers” was in a certain way, meeting myself as a reflection of them in the mirror.

I was them and they were me.

 

I said that I was looking for strangers that could pose in front of my camera like a mirror and represent their obsessions, fears, feelings, themselves as they wished.

James, the Business man, 'I Am your Mirror" (2013/2014)

I lost my identity to please others.

From 2010 till 2014,I had the most damaging period of my life without considering the years before..

My mind was obsessed by negative thoughts, I was sick.

I couldn’t imagine that I could lie disrespecting myself in that way, being someone different to please others and suppressing that beautiful being that I am.

Looking back at my experience, after more than a year I have realised that what I was looking for was confidence, courage, passion, identity, trust, respect, communication, connection, sex, imagination, playfulness, my soul but above all Love.

My values and foundations of who I am.

James is a business man, he comes from Canada, he lives in London since 20 years and he works in the same bank since then. His life is pretty much the same every day and he told me he is no free, he has to withstand at the rules of society that he doesn’t like much.

 

He is handsome, tall, polite, elegant, kind. He said to me that he wanted to be represented in a submissive but powerful way.

 

He sent me a couple of emails after our meeting, with some pictures of Mapplethorpe's work, as he was giving me some context to the images we might wish to create together of him.

 

I asked him few questions:

 

L.'Would you wear tights like those one attached? or high heels? or female underwear...I would like to put together the female and masculine with you.'

 

J.'I would be quite keen to explore that further. Yes, I am fine with that. In terms of bringing together the masculine and feminine, I think that Mapplethorpe's photos I sent you with the nude male and the clothed female is another way of doing it.'

But I am happy to try different things with you. You are an artist so I will follow your judgement. I am a size 43 shoe size, 34" waist.'

 

Then we lost ourselves for a month

 

I sent him another email asking if he could be free in December. He said that he would have been very busy and that it could have been better try in the new year.

He had a flat in the city that we could use. Not very glamorous but that will serve the purpose.

 

So we agree to meet in January and that was it.

 

I didn’t hear from him for two weeks when I receive a text with a time, a date and address, the place was close to Bermondsey, London.

 

I said that that day I was free and I went to visit him

 

He lived in a flat, those ugly building blocks, with inside mini apartments. He was no arrived yet and I was waiting for him outside. It was raining a bit.

 

He arrived, well dressed, in a blue suit, like a business man, with a brown suitcase and a big smile.

I liked his handsome figure, I felt a bit embarrassed.

I didn’t know what to do and what was going to happen, but I kept calm, I reminded myself that was doing a photography project with strangers, to be open, trust and all can happens.

 

We went upstairs in his flat and he asked me to sit around the table with him next to me. I sat down. He took two hours free from his job to let me take the pictures. He gave me some water. He drank water as well, then we talked for ten minutes about what he wanted to do. He showed me some bondage artistic work of men tied up with a rope, in a very beautiful way.

 

He said that in Japanese culture there is a term, 'Otaku', which describes an obsessive interest an individual has outside of their normal professional life.

Otaku is prevalent amongst Japanese business men who commonly work for the same employer for their entire career and have little chance to express their identity.

This constraint imposed by professional obligation to look and act in a certain manner was reflected in his obsession called Shibari.

"I want to be represented like a hostage, he said to me and he showed me a rope and a blindfold.

 

He said that we could play with those two objects. Then he asked me if I want to play in this way. I could accept or refuse and that once his face was covered, I could use the pictures as I wanted.

 

At the beginning I didn’t know what to answer, the choice was - accepting the situation or refusing.

I was feeling out of my comfort zone, I had never tied up a stranger, male, with a rope. I accepted. That was the core of my photography project, meeting strangers and be open to all the possibilities.

 

Firstly I put the blindfold on his eyes and I began to take pictures of him with his clothes on, then slowly slowly I asked him to remove the suit, the shirt, the trouser until he got naked.

I was fascinated by his figure. I was tied and untied him several times. I was sweating a lot, believe me. Tie and untie up is a hard work.

His penis was up and down. He was blindfolded and he could feel my touching. I was seeing him instead. I was moving him in different places in his flat. From a chair to a table, to a sofa.

 

While I was taking pictures I thought how intimate that situation was, and how strange is when two strangers meet, I never found myself in a similar situation with the same feelings before.

James, the Business man, 'I Am your Mirror" (2013/2014)

I had my camera on the tripod, with a very unusual setting for a photographer who does portrait.

There was only one window and I was using natural light. I remember there were working in progress outside and we had to move far away from that window, he was worried to be seen, so the light was dim. I was shooting with Iso 800, 1/30 shutter speed and f.2.8. It was difficult and with a Mamiya 645, so noisy.

 

I grabbed him with my two hands and I lied him down on the sofa. He asked me to cover up his sofa with a white sheet because he didn’t want me to show his apartment in the pictures.

Then, I put down his underwear and when I reached my camera and he had an erection.

 

I like how his penis is placed.

He looks like a little sculpture.

 

He has been tied and untied for almost an hour and he couldn’t see me. I don’t know how he was feeling.

 

I knew how I was feeling.

 

I looked at him. No words came out from my mouth for 5 minutes. I was feeling excited, I couldn’t understand why, he gave me the power to use his body and his figure how I wanted, and this acknowledgement was make me feel powerful and excited.

 

And that was the moment where I saw myself from outside. I saw myself taking the pictures , like me being a photographer in that frame of present reality and I saw myself feeling that, what I was thinking.

In that moment I could actually do what I wanted, I could even jump on him, touch him, have even sex maybe, but I would have changed the energy of what was happening.

 

Then, I breath in and out saying to myself that that was a photography project based on energy and trust and that had to stay like a photography project. I kept shooting pictures.

 

Seeing the self from outside, like a rational observer, gives the opportunity to be present in the whole process. Have a camera pointed on the self and being the one who points it at someone else is an extraordinary revealing experience.

We tried different things, and at the very end he asked me if I could take some close-up of his penis, which I did with my digital camera. Then the time was over and he had go back to work.

 

I untied him up nicely, he smiled at me, and dressed up. I watched him dressing up.

I felt like a voyeur, observing someone that I don't know, in his private life.

 

He said that at the beginning he was feeling anxious but then he started to trust in me and felt more relaxed.

 

He asked me to send him the pictures by email. He shaked my hand in a professional way, looking in my eyes and thanked me.

 

He opened the door and I left.

 

Once out I came back to my world, I was going down the stairs thinking about this short experience I had and how beautiful is when there is connection and trust between two strangers, but human being and how many things we can create together and how intimate some situation can be when you are opened without judgements.

 

Everyone is unique, with his own little world

I was pleased to have shared a part of me with him

 

I sent the pictures the week after, they were processed and scanned, which he liked, and then I never meet him again.

 

He is James, the business man...

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Loredana Denicola, 'How I met my strangers, I am your Mirror' photography project .

 

©Loredana Denicola 2013/2014

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Loredana Denicola Social Documentary Photographer | Fine Art Artist | London & Italy

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