This week’s photo challenge is a strange one at first reading. It’s about a different style of portraiture:
Explore silhouettes, shadows, orientation, and other ways to mask your subject… Explore the use of anonymity to express both that which is common to all of us and the uniqueness that stands out even when the most obvious parts of us are hidden.
I’m not a portrait photographer so I planned to sit this one out, until I remembered this series of pictures I had so much fun taking. In one of Prague’s squares, there’s a kinetic sculpture of Franz Kafka’s head by David Cerny. Believe me, you can’t miss it. It acts as a visitor magnet and a radar – anyone who ignores it on their way through the square must be from Prague. It was interesting to watch the sculpted face’s computations playing out, but while my sweetheart was taking a video (or two), my attention drifted from the main attraction to three circular toilets nearby.
I think they are public toilets, though they seem way up on the fancy side of the scale from palatial to sadly neglected holes in the ground. And they are big, so big that they made me wonder if they could be smaller inside: anti-tardises or un-tardises, whatever the reverse of a tardis* might be.
I didn’t go inside. To be truthful, I don’t know how you would get inside. Looking back, I might have seen someone about to go in, but didn’t see exactly what happened to him and never witnessed anyone getting out.
The circular walls have mirror finishes, with brushed metal bands at the top and bottom. The mirrors reflect traditional and contemporary buildings around the square, the sculpture, traffic and the many passers-by. If the circular buildings are not part of the installation, they are an inspired touch, characteristic of Prague’s grace.
My first instinct was to wait until there was nobody in shot, but in Prague, even in January, that isn’t going to happen.
The figures turn out to be an essential element of the effect, adding bustle in places and allusion in others. The people above seemed lost as they consulted a map, triggering a mental note to link in to Cee’s Which Way Challenge. The street sign (no left turn) was a lucky extra element, as was the road petering out to nothing where a car emerges from the sliver of ‘real’ road to the left. The softness of the colours helps reinforce an otherworldly look.
Cars, usually an unwanted distraction, became carriers of colour. It was not easy to predict where real life elements would appear and disappear in the reflection. I was experiencing a weird spatial awareness test with straight lines becoming curves and, given my spatial awareness, one I was likely to fail. Reflections appeared where I least expected them, or didn’t appear at all. That’s when I started snapping people walking into and out of frame – there being more than one frame in view – the ‘real’ frame and the inner frame of the reflective surface. Half people seemed to be as effective as whole people for showing direction and purpose. I wanted to show how the real collided with the reflection in visual terms, seemingly swallowed up by an alternative universe.
I would be perfectly content to dream images here, to play with pattern, colour and light.
I’d like to go back and learn how to keep out of shot without limiting my perspective, wearing a circular, brushed metal suit with a camera sized hole, perhaps? I’d love to learn how the colours change with the weather and the seasons, sunrise and sunset. Whatever ingredients passed by – humans and vehicles – all would be welcome extras.
If you’re intrigued to see the square’s main attraction, here it is: David Cerny’s kinetic sculpture of Franz Kafka’s head, flanked by its reflection on the curved wall, plus a few handily placed passers-by:
Shared for the Weekly Photo Challenge: A Face In The Crowd.
* A tardis is Doctor Who’s means of travel through space and time, bigger on the inside than on the outside.