'I Am Your Mirror'
I met Sean, the underground worker
Sean is the fifth stranger I met online. I remember he sent me few emails before taking part to the projects. He was a bit undecided, one day he wanted to take part and another day he didn’t want to take part, so it was a bit difficult to deal with him.
My first idea was to photograph myself and twelve strangers that I would find through the Internet.
These strangers, 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.
Sean at Clissold park, 'I am your mirror' photography project, © Loredana Denicola 2013/14
I received his email, on Thursday.
‘Hi I am not sure if I would be suitable for this as I am very slim and hardly have any hairs on my chest but I would love to meet you.
I sometimes cross dressing, my size is [8/10] and have always wanted to wear a wedding dress. I also have quite a lot of boy clothes and would welcome the opportunity to take part of your project.
I am a genuine person.
My number is…
PLEASE call me I live nearby'.
After reading his email, I remembered that I met him, a couple of months earlier, while I was doing some portraits of males for fun, and I was looking for subjects.
Even in that occasion, he didn’t want me to take his portraits after proposing.
I reminded him, I already met him once, that I was wasting my time, because in that occasion he let me down.
He assured me that, this time, he was committed to co-operate with me, he really wanted to show me the clothes that he bought from his favorite shop.
He was looking for a wedding dress, but he couldn’t find one.
He is very slim and the size available were too big for him, he bought some dresses that he liked very much and wanted to wear one.
I didn’t know what he had in mind. But I trusted him.
I was looking for subjects who wanted to take part to the project spontaneously. I don’t like chasing people.
I am more interested in energy.
One evening looking at my emails, I found another email.
Thank you so much, I am off next Tuesday, I don’t know if you saw the text I sent you on your mobile and I would love to meet you for the photos.
I have been gone a bit crazy shopping around, so I have quite new outfits that I want to show you, if you are free.
Hopefully the weather will stay like this.
I finish at 7 pm late shift on Monday so after 10 am that would be great, would be early enough to meet at my home and go together somewhere.
I could bring some of my stuff and do a few changes.
Are you up for this?'
I didn’t know what he had in mind.
I understood that he was a bit confused.
I answered saying that for me all was perfect, I was looking forward to meet him at his place, and I already knew the address.
The day after, the sun was shining brightly, high in the sky, not clouds, quite unusual, here in London.
I was happy and unhappy at the same time, I had to meet him at 10 am, so, in my mind, I was imagining that I would have taken his pictures outside at 12 am, when the sun is high, shadows were coming from the top, I knew the light wasn't great.
I felt a bit disappointed for the overall situation, not wedding dress and the sun high in the sky. However, at least it wasn’t raining and that was good.
We could get something. I was positive.
Then reminding myself my project, it states that the subjects could choose a time and a place to be photographed as they liked.
I woke up in the morning, put together all my equipment, model release, films, light meter etc...and I went to meet him.
It was not far from Stoke Newington, where I live, and once there, I rang the bell.
He lives at the second floor, in a flat inside a block building, near Clissold park.
He didn’t hear me, he didn’t open.
I was worried.
I thought – 'Maybe he changed mind again.'
But after 10 minutes, he came down to open the door.
I saw a big smile on his face.
He looked happy.
'Hello, he said, I was waiting for you!...Come with me, I want to show you the clothes I have chosen'.
I smiled at him, finally he decided to be in the project.
While we were going up to the second floor, he was keeping talking.
We went upstairs to the first floor, we walked through a long corridor, then we took other stairs to the second floor, where all the rooms were organised on both sides, we arrived at the last door, numbered 388, which was his room.
He opened the door, and a weird smell came out, a bad one. I got in with him.
There was a small room and a small toilet.
He had all the clothes layered on the floor, next to his double size bed.
Also there were shelves, many of them, and on the top of them there were some wigs, make up, books of all genre, cds, puppets and other clothes.
I don’t know how he could live in that place, it was so small and so stuffed of clothes. There were clothes everywhere. It looks like a shop.
The room was completely full of everything, I couldn’t move much, so I stayed
on the same spot, till he goes ready.
I asked him if I could get some pictures of him in his room which was looking very inspiring or in the corridor but he didn’t want it. He said to go to the park.
I agreed, I couldn’t do otherwise.
In my project the subjects decide to show themselves as they like and where they like.
He showed me more clothes.
I realised that he was changing mind again.
The clothes were completely different of those he told me he had to use.
This time were military clothes, there was a flag, big boots and a black tight dress with a jumper with ‘Amanda’ name on it.
I said that all was fine if he liked them.
I asked him if he wanted to put some make up on.
He didn’t like the idea because he said people were around Clissold Park and he didn’t want to be noticed.
There was too much light, and he didn’t want to be recognised.
His figure was strange.
Sean is very slim, and small in stature.
He looks like an alien, like someone who doesn’t live in this world, a bit lost and confused.
When he is off from work, he passes most of the time in his room, watching television.
He doesn’t have Internet.
He doesn’t need a bigger room because he works most of the times at night, in the underground.
Sometimes, when he is lucky, he does day shifts, so he sleeps mostly during the day.
He is been working like this for 15 years, he doesn’t have a social life, not a girlfriend or boyfriend.
He doesn' t go out often, except for shopping and clubbing.
He showed me pictures that other photographers took of him, and selfies of himself dressed like a woman took by himself, that I really liked and that I wanted to take myself, but that day was not the right day.
The clothes that he showed me were completely different.
His voice is low, a bit tender, almost whispering. I couldn’t hear him sometimes.
I was losing few words.
He looked happy.
He took one bag, layered few clothes in and finally we moved to Clissold park.
The sun was high and he was happy for that.
There were families going around Clissold park, so he asked me if we could move more inside, somewhere more hidden.
We walked a bit, we found a little path where there were few bushes, he found a thick one where to change his clothes…
He was very slow, a little fussy, his movements were loose.
He put a towel on the grass because he didn’t want to get dirty.
He was fun, he looked like he didn’t want to get contaminated.
Then he put on his black dress with a flowering textile shirt.
He looked well, I took few pictures of him.
Sean at Clissold park, 'I am your mirror' photography project, © Loredana Denicola 2013/14
Some mothers were curious and were passing nearby with their strollers looking at him.
He looked a bit unstable with those clothes on, it could be a bit disturbing.
He said that all was ok and he didn’t care much, as he was dressing like he normally does at home.
Then he took off the flowering shirt and he stand there for me.
A security man approached me saying that I could not take pictures of him in those conditions, because at that time, there were families and mothers with their children in the park, that would not appreciated to see him dressed in that way.
I was seeing nothing wrong in what we were doing.
He asked me gently to leave or to move somewhere out from Clissold park.
I had few problems, the light was struggling me, plus the fact that Sean was a bit embarrassed, after the security guard talked in that way.
I took the security guard a part, saying that I was doing a project for a newspaper, which it was a lie, and I showed him my press card.
I have one with me, which sometimes, it is very helpful.
I asked him, to give me more time, 20 minutes more and that I would have left afterwards.
I underlined the fact, that there was nothing wrong on how my stranger was dressed.
The security guard insisted, asking me to leave.
After those words, he left.
'I give you 20 minutes', he said, looking into my eyes.
Sean was a bit upset.
His happiness disappeared, he began to complain and wanted to go home.
With patience, I complimented him.
I insisted and wanted to take few more pictures.
I wanted to leave before the security man went back.
I promised him to bring him to the bar, there is one in Clissold park, and have something to drink and eat.
He seemed convinced.
Took few more pictures.
Then, we moved to the bar.
His way of posing remains the same.
He looked at me, always in the same way, with no one smile.
When I finished to take my pictures, he dressed up with his military trousers and boots and we moved to the bar for a coffee.
Once there, the sun was still shining, I wasn’t very happy about the pictures,
but I thanked him for his time.
He ordered a blueberry muffin with a latte and I took an espresso.
Then, we sat outside, around a table.
I asked him few questions about the job he does, I was curious to know about his life and what kind of experience is working in the underground.
He said that he loves his job, he has responsibility, especially because once he saw someone took off his life, throwing himself in the rail.
He couldn't do much, in that occasion, but he saw vividly all the scene.
He said that sometimes, customers are rude with him and his colleagues are really supportive, helping him most of the time.
He has fun as well.
Sometimes he goes to cross dressing clubs, where he feel understood.
He goes to clubbing once a week, when he works during the day.
Before leaving, I asked him if he could write something that could represent his experience with me, and that I would have sent his pictures, in a week time on his email.
After a week he sent me this email:
'Thank you so much for our time together.
I just couldn’t remember exactly what I said when you bought me the coffee and the muffin, so I don't know what to write.
By the way just so you know you are a beautiful woman in and out.
I didn’t know you took pictures of me in BLACK AND WHITE but it is probably the best result.
I felt good with you.
Take care love SEAN'.
'Write what you feel Sean' - I replayed - The pleasure is mine!
Let me know when you get the wedding dress.
That would be fun!
You too are a wonderful person.
Thank you very much for being who you are'
He is Sean, the Underground worker.
Written by Loredana Denicola, 'How I met my strangers, I am your Mirror' photography project .
©Loredana Denicola 2013/2014