Mobile Reflection Photography
I have been passionate about mobile photography since I bought my first iPhone and Instagram showed up, almost four years ago. Before that time, I liked photography, but I never carried a camera around with me all the time, as I do now. What I love most about mobile photography is precisely that, the possibility of always carrying a light and ready-to-unblock 8 Megapixels camera with me, ready to shoot, and the possibility of editing the pictures on the same device, which weighs only 112 grams, and that I always have in my pocket.
As an architect, I love to watch the world and everything that goes around it. Architects are very curious people. We build homes, buildings, and therefore cities, for people to live in. We care very much that people find themselves comfortable in the houses we design for them to live, in the buildings we design for them to work and enjoy their leisure time. We pay attention to natural light, dimensions, perspective, and scale. We know we have succeeded in our work when we watch people enjoying what we have designed for them. Before I had my first iPhone 3GS, I just watched it through the eyes of an architect. But after buying it, for some unknown reason (although I think it was due to my desire of capturing everything I saw), I discovered there was a new way of watching the world, a much more interesting way people usually don’t pay any attention to: Reflections.
I soon found out that I liked seeing it this way better. As an architect, I used to watch the world in a very “flat” and direct way. What I had in front of my eyes was what I saw. Now, as a mobile photographer, I don’t want to show the world just as our eyes watch it, but rather as watched in a dream. Here is where reflections come in, and they surround us, in case you haven’t noticed it.
Most of my photos are about urban spaces, but presented in a different way. I focus on reflections of streets and people on car windows, on store windows, on showcases, on puddles, and even on metallic surfaces. Normally, in these reflections, the reflected image is distorted, twisted, deformed. This deformation is what I emphasize. Reflections present images of what exists, but in such a way that they transform reality into something totally different, and that’s what I find so breathtaking.
Depending on the surface the images reflects, I like to talk about:
1. Reflections on buildings:
The glass façades of the buildings, under certain conditions of light, may act as a mirror, sending back to us the reflected image of what stands in front, or beside, depending on the way to look at the façade.
It is very interesting to photograph these reflections, because you can often play with the composition, helped by the lines of the façade, using vertical and horizontal elements to compose the final picture.
On other occasions, I go around looking for fragmented façades, in order to have the images reflected several times, like a kaleidoscope (see image 1).
This is a picture (see image 2) I find particularly interesting due to the three glass surfaces. Once more, I focused on the composition of the picture. There’s a clear vertical axis that divides the image in two, but not symmetrically, which makes it even more interesting than if it was.
Something I really love is to place my iPhone on the glass façade of a building and look for a symmetrical reflection. You thus get a double image, which makes it hard sometimes to guess which is the real image and which is the reflected image. For me, this (see image 3) is a beautiful example of it.
2. Reflections on cars and buses:
I am especially fascinated by the reflections on cars and buses. These surfaces are not perfectly flat, but curved, so the world reflected is not presented as in a mirror, but rather deformed, twisted, and distorted.
When it comes to these kinds of reflections, I like to distinguish several types, depending not only on the surfaces that reflect, but also on the image reflected. If the surface is continuous and curved, the world reflected seems to twist around itself. Take a look at the two following pictures, and you will understand what I mean (images 4 and 5).
But other times, when the different surfaces of a car converge on a line, and there’s a reflection on both, the final image is very interesting because the same object seems to divide itself and reflects on every single surface. It may even happen to be differently lit depending on the angle the sunlight hits the surfaces. This (image 6) is what I like to call: “The world fragmented in pieces”.
What I find so interesting about capturing the reflection of the city on a bus’s front window is that it will never be flat, straight, but rather slightly distorted, curved. Because glass is always transparent and one sees what’s behind, one often sees the real world juxtaposed with the reflected world, and that’s something I truly love. (Images 7 and 8).
3. Reflections on puddles:
When I wander around, I always look for small puddles. It is easy to find them, at least in Madrid, because the streets are watered daily to clean them up. Water, under certain conditions of light, becomes a clean mirror, and what goes around the puddle can be perfectly reflected on the liquid surface.
Why do I love these kinds of pics so much? Because the world seems to emerge from the water. Because the sky and the buildings seem to melt and fuse with the ground, whatever it is made of. Because I feel as if I trapped a piece of the world within the small water surface of a puddle.
To obtain a good “reflection on puddle” pic, we must choose a puddle lying in the shadow that reflects something lit by the sun. Let’s see some examples. (Image 10-12).
4. Upside down reflection:
I found out something very interesting soon after I started capturing reflections, and that is the visual effect created by images of reflected urban spaces and people, when this image is turned upside down. To our eyes emerges thus an unreal world, a world of dreams that gives the images a magical and abstract sense.
When the picture of a reflection is rotated 180 degrees, one enters into a totally different and unreal world, and the message transmitted by the photo is absolutely different to the one transmitted by the original picture. And I love it.
This is what I like to call: “The world upside down, my world of dreams…” Let’s see some examples of “upside down” reflections on different surfaces.
This (image 13) is an “upside down” reflection on water: it looks like a tiled sky that my daughter Candela is posing under, and she seems too big for the city she lives in…
The next one (image 14) is a reflection on the glass surface of the upper part of a mall. The glass reflects the people passing by underneath, but by turning it upside down, it seems as if they are walking on the edge of Heaven…
And finally, this is the “upside down” reflection of a Ferris wheel on a metallic surface (image 15). I especially like the texture of the metal, and how this textures gets mixed up with the reflection.
The world can be watched and enjoyed in different ways. Reflection and reality can get mixed up, and live in perfect harmony. Why not? I know the world captured in a reflection is not the real world, but it’s the world I love. It is up to us to decide which way we prefer: surely one way or the other, maybe both…
In conclusion, would all these pictures be different if I had captured them with a DSLR, rather than with my iPhone? The answer is: NO. It does not make any difference which device you capture a reflection with. You don’t need to be fast in order to photograph a reflection; they always stand still for you to capture them. But, would I have shot them if I had not had my iPhone? Again, NO. Four years ago I was only a curious architect, now I’m a curious architect and a mobile photographer fascinated by reflections. Mobile photography has opened my eyes to a new dimension, to this new world previously unknown to me, and I thank it for this reason. That’s why I love it so much.