'I Am Your Mirror'
I met Yasemin & Umit, the Family
Yasemin & Umit were the fifth strangers that I met, I call them ”The Family”. One evening I found Yasemin's email on my personal account, I opened it.
Yasemin & Umit, the family, 'I am your mirror' © Loredana Denicola 2013/2014
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.
Then, I asked to write down a few words, something that could represent them.
She replayed to my advert on Internet, saying that she was happy to take part to the project after talking with her husband, Umit.
I was surprised how much she was opened with a stranger like me.
She talked about her husband's depression, how that depression brought darkness in her marriage, and how great was the light that the birth of their child brought in her relationship.
Maybe she needed to vomit her pain out with someone, I do sometimes as well, and probably because I was a stranger, I was the right person for her, at that moment.
It was odd that a mother with a child wanted to take part of my ‘I am your mirror’ photography project.
The advert she found on internet was clearly stating that I was looking for people with obsessions, sicknesses, fears and I was curious to know why she wanted to take part.
The ‘child brought light in the darkness', she said.
She wanted me to represent this side of her life.
I agreed, but honestly I couldn't imagine the result as I didn’t know where they were living and what approach they had towards my overall project, if they were picky or open minded.
We talked a lot through emails, about how to re-present this light photographically. She came out with some ideas but I wasn’t sure if I could actually give her what she wanted.
I think she thought that I had a studio.
I specified that for my documentary project, I was using natural light, and photograph situations that happen in the moment, that I didn’t have a studio, and that I would have used their flat instead.
She said that she was living in a small flat and they were in the process to move in a new one, in a couple of weeks.
I proposed some pictures outside the flat, in the sun and try some over exposure. But she didn’t like the idea. She wasn't like the neighbourhood.
She seems to have clear ideas on how she wanted to be re-presented.
When I began this project I decided to accept anyone who wanted to take part as it is. I didn’t do any selection of people. I met them as they were.
Some of them agreed, others refused, others disappeared.
I was more interested in looking for their co-operation and I wanted a true commitment.
I didn’t want to convince anybody.
Everyone has a choice and they were free to do whatever they wanted, and free to show or not their faces.
I thought it could be beneficial for some of them expressing themselves without any fear and judgment in front of my camera.
There is a sort of magic that happens when you open up your heart.
Heart to heart communication is one of the most powerful conversation.
I wanted to leave them free, that is why some of them got naked or show some erection at some point. But this is not the case of Yasemin & Umit, the family.
After a couple of days I received an email from her husband, Umit.
I got your email from Yasemin, my wife, I had a few ideas which I thought might be interesting. One idea I had for a picture documentary was perhaps the displacement.
We are born and bred British people, I am brown and Muslim too so in UK I never felt like I belong and had many racism.
The country I originate from is Cyprus, its split into two a Greek and the other Turkish.
When we go to Cyprus, they don’t like or want us back due to being British and religious now, and so we are left with no identity or place, this inspired one of my poems which I thought might go well with pictures to tell the story.
In addition to this I thought that a set of pictures to show the darkness and hopelessness that is depression which I suffer from and how it affects us in everyday, especially as mental illness is something being cut by current government.
Again I have poems for this too if that would work. And my wife had an idea from darkness to light she already discussed with you, I believe. Just thought I would throw some ideas out’.
Yasemin and Umit are Muslim, born in London. Yasemin is a pretty woman, very maternal, she is sweet and she has a very kind voice on the phone.
We talked again through emails.
Then I asked them if I could go and visit them, where they live, just to know each other and see what energy was between us, if there was trust.
We exchanged our phone numbers.
After two weeks Yasemin texted me, Umit was at home the day after, off from work, so I could go and visit them. They live in London, zone 6.
We arranged for 2pm.
They wanted to meet me.
I sensed a bit of closeness, they were not really convinced.
I went to meet them.
It was a bit difficult find out their address.The flat was hard to reach.
I had to walk through a path in a park, and the streets were not clear.
So, I arrived late.
When I arrived, I waited few minutes outside. There was a garden outside.
I rang the bell.
Yasemin opened the door, giving a smile.
She was alone with her child, she apologies, her husband had other things to do, that day. He wasn't there at home.
I said that all was ok for me and we could do another day. I look around the flat and I liked the overall look, it was bright and colourful. I told her that we could have worked well in her flat.
She insisted to use the other one, they have to move in a couple of weeks and that they would have been in touch with me, once sorted the new flat.
She was really nice, she offered me a chocolate cake, made by her and a coffee, which was delicious. Then, the bell rang. I thought Umit came back home, but her mother came to visit her . We had a small talk, about life in general.
Yasemin talked about her marriage and all the problems that she had with her husband, because he is depressed, so he has to take lot of anti - depressants to cope with all of that was happening at that moment, he was looking for a new job and he was really stressed as they had to move flat.
Then she introduced me to her child. He is a boy, always smiling and she said that he was born happy despite all, because he is a happy child and that was the reason why she wanted to show the light in the darkness, because he is that light.I stayed there more than an hour then I got back home.
I felt responsible for the final result, for that picture that she was dreaming about.
After 20 days Yasemin, texted me asking if I was ready to take their pictures.
I was not really prepared this time, I felt different, I was feeling unsure, I couldn’t get that kind of intimacy that I normally have with one person, I was dealing with a family and I felt they had expectations.
She gave me her new address and again I went to visit them.
This time Umit was with her.
I went there, 5th zone this time.
Found their address. Waited for the right time to ring the bell.
2pm. I go to the door and I rang the bell.
None opened the door.
I saw that the curtains were down, so I thought none was at home.
Half an hour passed and none opened the door.
I made a phone call to see if I understood rightly.
None answer, I am still there.
After 10 minutes, Umit opened the door.
I say – ‘Hello, my name is Loredana and I came today to take some pictures of you , and Yasemin for my project, I am your mirror’.
I am still at the door.
‘Come in’, he said.
I got in, took off my shoes at the entrance. I saw many shoes there.
The floor is wet, so my socks got wet.
The windows were closed in the first room. The flat was smaller than the previous one.
Yasemin came out to say hello with her child, he smiled at me. She showed me the flat, a couple of rooms, one kitchen, a small living room and a toilet.
It was dark there but I found that with a bit of luck and co-operation we could do something interesting.
They said they had an hour of time available.
There was only one room with the window glass on the ceiling, and the lighting coming from there. The sky was cloudy, which it was fine .
There was a mess everywhere, because they moved a week before but that wasn’t a problem for me.
She said that Umit would have started. He was a serious man, medium size, dark skin, almost sad and he was no smiling.
How are you? I said
Fine , he answered
He came out with packs of anti-depressants plus a picture of her mother that he wanted to introduce in the picture.
Yasemin & Umit, the Family, 'I am your mirror' photography project, © Loredana Denicola 2013/2014
'Depression is living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that try to die, he said to me'
I had 20 shots available for an hour. While I was doing this project, I decided to take 20 pictures for all the encounters I met. I like that sort of tension between the photographer and the subject in that short period of time, it can lead to very good results.
After Umit, I took few shots of Yasemin with her child. She showed me his preferred position in her arms, and I took a picture of him smiling. I was trying to capture the light in a different way.
Then I took some pictures of them, Yasemin & Umit together with their child. But I realised that there was some sadness when I put them together, like two separate worlds that come together, there wasn’t happiness.
I don’t know if they were discussing before opening the door and let me in, as they made me waiting half an hour outside.
Then I had my last picture. I wanted to use the sofa at the entrance, the window was almost shut down.
They placed the child on a small table, like a very important trophy, he his with his nappy, almost naked.
Even the child is naked in “ I am your Mirror’ project. So beautiful.
We all are children.
Both of them are behind the child, in the darkness, and the child is illuminated by the light that comes from the window.
Yasemin is looking at her child and Umit is looking somewhere else, holding his son.
I open the window, the light came in.
I put my camera on the tripod and I took the picture.
It is nice to see the shape of a triangle between them.
That is my last shot.
I have chosen this picture because for me it explains clearly their relationship.
I don't know if they are happy with my choice.
I said to them that it was a pleasure to have had the chance to take pictures of them together and that I would have sent the pictures by email.
I processed the negatives the day after, I scanned the negative and sent to them.
I asked them to write down something that could re-present themselves after this experience.
Umit sent me his poem:
The title of coward is thrown around accusingly
Yet one could debate this lie instantly
On one hand you choose to live,
A choice that come easily
As opposed to suicide, that requires bravery
You claim endurance to battle on with life,
Overlooking the human instinct to survive
In contrast though, you refuse to acknowledge
The battle against this instinct
And the constant plague of rationality
Add to that insecurity,
That comes with doubting eternity
Ending it all is not insanity,
Instead an escape plea
It’s granted that at some point
Every person tries to flee
But depression and pain
Does not listen to mediocrity
Faith becomes irrelevant as we all suffer equally
Yet when threatened with hell,
I fail in finding the sea of mercy
It is my wish for no one to misunderstand me
It is not God I blame, rather human cruelty
To find proof, all you need to do
Is look back at history
This manmade jungle,
Deprives us of our humanity
Why would I choose to live,
While all mankind brings is calamity.
Umit is a poet.
It is wonderful be free to express yourself.
Thank you for your time Yasemin & Umit and for this beautiful poem.
Written by Loredana Denicola, 'How I met my strangers, I am your Mirror' photography project .
©Loredana Denicola 2013/2014