Photographer Moa Karlberg: Watching You Watch Me

by Intern Candice

I didn’t always connect with photography, but I’ve recently come to appreciate all the raw emotion, nostalgia, and feelings you can get from it (thank you black-and-white photography class!). So now, when I look at photographs, I find myself not just staring at a picture with effects I probably can’t name, but being enamored and drawn into a whole new  world; the eyes of someone else. Such is art, bringing out all sorts of things you didn’t expect it to. Such is, photojournalism?

Let’s look at Moa Karlberg, for example. With her “Watching You Watch Me” project, I feel that she is bringing up more than her intended purpose. Karlberg takes photographs of unsuspecting citizens from behind a mirror with a camera that no one knows is there. With this, she can take a photograph of whom ever happens to pass by. She describes this project as “discovering how a photographer can get as close as possible to others, without acting illegal.” And since the photographs are taken in a public place she can publish them however she wants. You may be throwing up your eyebrows right now thinking of that whole personal space/privacy rule, but the photojournalist assures that she isn’t getting all up in the grills of random passersby, but creating “debate on [the] laws and ethics of a photographer’s role.”

Looking at the photographs taken, you probably won’t be questioning the photographer’s role as much as the puzzling expressions you’ll be staring at. When was the last time I passed by a reflective store front window or stood in front of a dark train door and was satisfied with what I saw? This is what I thought to myself while viewing these. I feel as if many of us can relate to looking in a mirror by the time the end of the day rolls around and thinking “Was this how I looked all day?!” while furiously wiping the shine off our faces and patting down our hair that went wild sometime between rush hour and our new noise-cancellation headphones. To let someone else see us in that kind of vulnerable state would be pretty embarrassing, right?

As pointed out on Feministe, you’ll see that the faces in the mirror are anything but happy to see themselves. The looks in the mirror show the reflected faces of disgust, questioning, and maybe even shock. Within the photos taken, we get a glimpse of something one may never get to see; how others view themselves. Even though we are only looking at fourteen portraits, why do I get the feeling that it is the same for most of us? And in that case, isn’t the photographer getting a little more intimate than she intended with her project? Still, I think that it is good for us all to see something like this. It’s never bad to get a glimpse of how hard one can be on themselves, in my opinion. As my mom likes to say “everything is a learning curve.” Hopefully, the next time I or you readers look in a mirror we’ll be a little less harsh on ourselves. Or maybe use better mousse…


Photos from Moa Karlbergs’s “Watching You Watch Me” project

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