'I Am Your Mirror'
I met Abdul with his ballerina dress
I put an advert on Internet and Mohammed sent me an email, telling me that he was interested to take part in my photography project called "I am your Mirror".
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.
Abdul in the garden © Loredana Denicola 2013/14
The first time, he decided to meet me in Spitalfields market to introduce ourselves.
He wanted to know me.
I remember his tiny figure approaching me, so fragile and with a very sweet voice.
He told me that his dream is to dress up like a ballerina and be lifted up from his leotard by a strong dominant wrestling woman.
I tried to look for a wrestling dominant woman in London, I went to wrestling gyms but I couldn’t find her. He was disappointed.
We talked about his life, what he does, and I asked him if he had anything to dress up for the photo session.
He said he had a pink ballerina dress and a yellow and black leotard.
I remember that day so vividly. He came to visit me, getting in my flat with a big black plastic bag, full of colourful clothes, bought from Chinese shops.
We couldn't use his flat, so we had to use my communal garden, which is situated downstairs.
He said that his wife knows nothing about his dreams, that she won't understand him and that sometimes he likes dressing up, at night, when she sleeps, playing alone in front of a mirror and taking selfies in the mirror.
I am fascinated by the fact that even now, we have to put masks on with the closest people in our life (wife, husband, friends, brother, sister...) because afraid of judgements or
rejections and we don't have the courage
to be who we are.
I did so many times with my parents, when I was a teenager.
I had to lie to be accepted because they were no liking the truth, who I was. And I kept going like this for many years, wearing a mask that wasn't mine and acting how they wanted me to be, but deep inside, I wasn't happy.
I choose to work with strangers, because it can be easier to be unguarded with a stranger and it doesn’t imply any emotional levels of attachment as possession as often it manifests in relation.
Meeting a stranger without knowing what will happen can be a frightening experience as well as enlightening one ....
I didn’t plan the photoshoot with Mohammed, I wanted everything to be spontaneous, I wanted to play with him. I used an old 35mm camera with a black and white film.
At the end, I realised that, with a planned photoshoot all would have been amazing!
Maybe fashionable as well.
Those pieces of clothes that he brought with him, in a black plastic rubbish bag, were very colourful and colour film or transparency would have been perfect for the situation.
But I wanted to photograph strangers in the present moment and the present moment is only one! I look forward.
I needed only one important ingredient, human connection, energy , talking by heart, be yourself, of both part.
Those moment were real and true...
He is Muslim, married, with children, he loves Jane Fonda and he wanted to be dominated.
Sometimes curiosity brings me in difficult but unique situations.
I didn’t direct him.I let him be himself
I didn’t have much time...an hour
I wasn't judgemental, I let all happen...
During "I am your Mirror" photography project where I dealt with 12 strangers, I put a fixed limit of time, an hour, for photographing people.
The picture that I love most is always the first!
The situation required me to be completely present in that moment with the stranger when all happen, I had to take care of the overall feelings and being in control while using a camera.
My first idea was to go to his place, his flat. I think location are perfect and give a more detailed explanation of who the subject is.
And then, I am curious. I will never, ever stop at the appearance. I have a big open mind. I love my mind.
It will bring me to a big creation, one day.
What is appearance? It is too limitative. You cannot stop at the 5 senses of perception using only a rational mind otherwise you lose all the rest, you lose what is real...
However using his flat was not possible. He has a wife, he is Muslim, and has children. She doesn’t know about his dreams.
I am a stranger and I know. Liberation.
I think that at some point of our life something happens.
We explode, we collapse....there is a urge of expression and we feel to put out our vulnerability, fears, sexual fantasies, obsessions, secrets, expressing oppression from family, society, religion.
We may grow up suppressing our feelings, taking on roles to protect ourselves. If from habituation we forget that we play roles, then we forget ourselves.
We forget that we are.
That day, it was freezing. There was not good light – very cloudy, no extra lighting and I used a cheap analog camera with a Black and White film, 400 ISO Ilford.
He got exited at some point.
He was really enjoying very much the photoshoot with me.
He was dancing and jumping in my garden, and I was amazed. In some pictures you can see the wet on his pants. I wasn’t expecting that, honestly.
I realised that I was giving him the chance to be himself, always hidden in his room with nobody to talk about it.
I think I can understand him. We have this little child inside us that want to have fun!
We all are humans and we are made in a certain way. Weird or not we are who we are. The photoshoot was smoothly and he knew that I wasn’t judging him but I was part of that theatrical real performance of life and I think he had lots of fun!
At least he was happy. I was happy too.
At the end we went up on my room. He dressed up, in my toilet, with his normal clothes.
While he was dressing up, I was smoking a cigarette at my window looking outside. He thanked me and he said to me with his little and sweet voice, almost whispering.
He had a little voice, like a whisper.
A. May I ask you a question?
M. Yes of course.
A. You don’t look that kind of person so I am a bit embarrassed to ask.
M. Go on, tell me. Do not worry.
A. Would you wank me?.. I have already a condom on.
M. I am sorry, this is not included in my project.
A. Not worries I understand. I just asked.
M. You did well. It is good to ask.
And then I opened my door and he went down the stairs and said 'Bye'. He asked me to cover his face if I have to do an exhibition. People wouldn’t understand him. He said that he can lose his job.
But people who won't understand him, don't understand themselves and my art is looking for better human beings, without judgements.
I am nobody to judge anybody. I didn’t feel offended. This can happen to everyone, in everyday life, if you take the risk.
Society imprisoned us. We grow up with fear and obsessions because not free to express ourselves. I always repeat the same things in my writing.
That is from where violence come from – from suppression.
We need to re-appropriate of our freedom.
"Creativity has go to start with humanity and when you are a human being, you feel, you suffer, you are obsessed, you fear, you are sick, you are nervous, whatever.."
Let's be better humans...
Love is the only Religion.
Thank you Mohammed for being part of this amazing moment in my life!
It was a pleasure to be there.
Written by Loredana Denicola, 'How I met my strangers, I am your Mirror' photography project .
©Loredana Denicola 2013/2014