Social Experimentation by Fred Barnell

January 31, 2013

Brooklyn based photographer, Fred Barnell recently conducted a small social experiment with passers-by who were caught in the gaze of their own reflection. Dressed in all black, a ski mask, and gloves, Barnell used a two way mirror to capture the intimately akward moments of many New Yorkers.


According to Barnell, "Working behind a two-way mirror in various locations around Manhattan, I photographed that instant on the street when we glance and check out our reflection.  The images capture a gaze which is unguarded and unsettlingly direct."


"It was unusual for me; the (NY Times) magazine had been interested in this phenomenon, and they were familiar with my projects in Times Square and in the Pantheon, work which was also about distilling down this fraction of a second where people are concentrating their gaze on an image (those projects both looked at tourists and how they ‘performed’ the act  of memory creation with cameras.) Siobhán Bohnacker, one of the editors, contacted me out of the blue, and after some initial brainstorming, I sketched out the design with the mirror, bought some weird supplies, sewed together the opaque black ‘booth’ that I stand in behind the mirror, packed it all into a cab with my assistant, and went shooting."


The passers-by who lingered to adjust a collar or smooth down unruly hair never knew that a photographer was on the other side of the two-way mirror, dressed in black clothes, a ski mask and gloves so his own reflection wouldn’t show up in the pictures he was taking.