What do we see when we look in the mirror? Los Angeles-based photographer Juan Luis Garcia asked himself that very question. After giving it some thought, the question evolved into an idea, and the idea grew into a project.
“I photograph people looking at themselves through a two-way mirror. I then flip the image horizontally to show their reflection so that we get to see what the subject saw when they were looking into the mirror. It’s amazing how unique our reflections are compared to how others see our faces. The question then becomes, what do these people see when they stare into their own eyes?”
Juan Luis’ project is aptly titled Face Value. So far he has shot more than 120 portraits of diverse range of subjects, including both new faces as well as recognizable ones. Examples of the latter include rock legend Gene Simmons, Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, artist Shepard Fairey and award-winning author Rachel Kushner.
“I purchased a Profoto D1 500 Air Kit for the project. I really wanted a compact setup that was easy to travel with. So far it’s held up very well. My stands and tripod take a beating, but the lights are solid. I also experimented with several light shapers, such as the Softlight Reflector, softboxes and reflectors. I even tried making my own light shapers with some Ikea lamps! Finally, I played with the kit umbrellas, and they worked perfectly!”
How do you shoot through a two-way mirror?
“I crank up the modeling light to max, so that I get enough light on the subject to activate the two-way mirror and be able to focus. This then enables me to focus my camera. Since I’m shooting with a 24-105L f/4 through the filter, and the mirror is 1/4 inch thick, it goes without saying that I need a decent amount of power. But the D1 500 makes it happen.”
What’s next? Will your continue with the Face Value project?
“So far I’ve photographed 120 people in Los Angeles and New York combined, and I will continue shooting wherever I find participants until I reach 500. The goal is diversity but also representation of how similar we are as humans. The photo session includes a brief interview about what the subject sees in the mirror. I record their answers for my notes, which I’ll put quotes from for the final presentation of the series. Up to now, everything has run harmoniously on its own momentum, so I feel I’ll know how to present it once I’m finished. Photographing so many amazing people and hearing their stories is a real privilege and I want to do them justice.”
If you are interested in participating in the Face Value project, email Juan Luis at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You should also take a look at Juan Luis’ website.