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Claude Gelée, known as “Le Lorrain”, the glass mirror

Birth of a photographic series

The series titled “Mirror Black” was created during my residency in Turku, Finland, initiated by the Ministry of Culture. I made several trips during different seasons, spending fifteen days each time. Winter was my final stay.

A few days before my departure, I wandered through the city without knowing where to go. Walking allows one to experience reality1. I would let my footsteps guide me randomly through the streets, it was my way of approaching the city while remaining open to my surroundings. Eventually, I found myself in a large square called Market Place, where the side glass of a bus stop offered a view of a black glass covered in a multitude of frozen ice crystals. The crystallization gave the glass a metallic appearance, transforming it into an old mirror fragmented by time, shimmering in the morning light. At the stop, my eyes fixed on the silhouettes of passersby and the bustling city that were reflected on the surface of the polished glass.

I couldn’t help but think of an object called “Claude’s mirror” or “Claude Lorrain’s mirror,” which was particularly appreciated in the 18th century by draftsmen and landscape painters. They used it to render their works dark, deep, and dense, in the style of the French painter Claude Gelée , also known as “Le Lorrain.”

The glass mirror black, Claude Gelée also known as “Le Lorrain.”

This mirror is a small slightly convex black object, typically kept in a case with a lid. The user, turning away from the subject, uses the mirror in the opposite direction, with the same attention and concentration as a photographer composing their subject through the viewfinder of their camera2. Travelers also carried it to admire landscapes, not to mention those who regarded it for its esoteric aspects.

With my faithful tool, the camera, wedged between my mittens, the tips of my fingers almost frozen, I was able to systematically and compulsively capture the ephemeral reflections, the fragments of time reflected by the mirror.

The result produced these images that seem to emerge from another era.

Market place, Finland
Market place, Finland
Market place, Finland
Market place, Finland
Market place, Finland
  1. Contextual Art: Artistic creation in urban environments, in situations of intervention, participation – Paul Ardenne ↩︎
  2. Mirror Black – source Wikipedia ↩︎
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John-David Samblanet

David Samblanet is an artist-researcher who uses various media such as photography, video, and sound to capture and preserve the impressions of time, while… More »

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