Monday, 4 December 2017

Picture Post # 31: Small Chains and Big Chains

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Tessa den Uyl and Martin Cohen

Picture credit: 'We Buy Gold' by Robert Saltzman

In the mirror, hanging on the right wall inside the shop, the salesman is physically reflected. He examines a piece of jewellery. Our eyes are then led diagonally to the hand of the woman in the foreground, who touches her face. And then we discover the girl in the midst holding her hand on her left shoulder. In this way, a triangle is drawn by the gestures of three persons, or rather four, because the man reflected in the mirror is diagonally redrawing a line with the two women and vertically with himself.

The image binds its three main characters in a particular way. Each gesture links in a long chain with another. Similarly one may say that a smaller circuit chains a bigger one.

In the foreground, the woman looks as if she is looking into a mirror of memories. In the midst, the younger woman looks at us through the camera lens, which forms ‘a mirror’ through which we can see her, and she can see ‘us’. The shop window mirrors reflections of the merchandise. The merchant ‘mirrors’ the value of a piece of jewellery.

In this landscape of glittering tokens, of symbols and expressions concerning desire, in these obvious links, there are gaps. We have to move towards the unseen within the image to skip the self-evidence of the trust in our sight.

 For where do we start or end?

Do we end in the outline of our body, or in the ring on our finger, or perhaps in the person who gave that ring to you? Or maybe in looking at this picture, in the depicted person’s or in the merchandise made by other hands, other gestures, in other living materials?

An image moves between an inner and outer world and backwards in time and presents a chain of messages in which we might, if we could follow them all, discover a vaster world.


  1. Both women in the photo have seemingly matching expressions. Maybe they find the hours-long wait for customers wearisome, or are simply disinterested (perhaps exasperated) in having their photo taken — no one can really know, of course. On a different, linguistic level, the accompanying discussion makes six references to the word ‘mirror ’— four instances as nouns, two as a verb. And it makes three references to the word ‘image’. The frequency of these two words in such a short account — and given how the words become entangled — makes it natural to think of them in the expression ‘mirror imaging’. The expression’s meaning — one’s presumptive belief that other individuals and societies will think and act like you — might be salient in the context of the photo. Presumptive confirmation. Perhaps the two women, in their corresponding expressions, are ‘mirror-imaging’ each other.

  2. Thank you Keith,

    I believe 'mirror imaging' is also a cognitive technique to inhabit other stories without prejudice. (?)

    To me, the gaze of the woman in the foreground reaches far. And that particular absence invites us into the image. Another quality in the composition is the crescendo of the vertical lines, like a staircase, and hands a theatrical kind of setting. These elements offer a certain distance for the viewer to watch the picture and have it reflected. The sensitivity of the image, to me, proposes a gentle 'sidewalk' to enter an inner examination between 'us and others'. I guess because emotional, intellectual and commercial aspects are all combined, not rude but gently.

  3. The photo might have been titled 'Boredom'. It makes me wonder to what extent this may be associated with affluence in general.