In November of 2001, Dennis Roth submitted to the urge to flip himself upside down and begin looking at the world from a completely new perspective. And he did so by the water, thus adding a world of reflections into the mix. He began to take pictures hanging upside down from a park bench, and as he did, he discovered many woodland creatures, nature spirits, and aliens that usually hide just outside our vision.
I have written about his work before here. But since then, the liminal world shown in his photography has grown, and the results are magical. All these photos are unaltered, and I recommend visiting his Flickr page to see larger versions.
In Panoptic (above), I see two different figures. The one starting from highest up has two green horns and a female, though goat-like, face. Her robed arms reach out to each side, and one grabs a staff which is topped with a horned goat’s skull. The other woman is much shorter and wizened-looking, reminding me more than slightly of Helena Bonham Carter’s character in the new Alice movie, with the high collar and the big hair. Ask me tomorrow, and I’m sure there will be something else.
We Come in Peace
“What happens in this position is that one loses perception of the reflecting surface, the water that is, especially if it is smooth and unruffled, and one sees only the scene and its reflection, one on top of the other, mirror and mirrored, their order reversed, together with an exhilarating sense of water-dissolving space and light. And interestingly for me, at least, in late fall and winter the upper mirror is usually more beautiful than the lower mirrored scene because some of the sky's glare is modulated in the reflection and one sees a kind of otherworldly light more alluring than what is given in a simple downward glance. This contrast is less noticeable when just looking down at a reflection because in that case reflection and scene exist on different planes and cannot usually be perceived in one glance. But in the inverted perspective they are contiguous and water, rather than being just a liquid reflector of light, seems to become a kind of ether that transmits and transforms it.”
I Am the Egg Man
“Of course, there are also computer programs that will automatically create reflections, but an examination of most of the photos here will show that a simple duplication of the parts above the water line will not produce the same results. Refractions, diffusions, foreground objects, and displaced perspective points make for different "real-life" pictures. If taken further, however, computer manipulation could create an endless parade of inverted images. Although with so many other pictorial possibilities available on the computer, what would be the point? The Inverted Mirror World is ‘magic realism,’ not fantasy” source.
Leaving an Impression
These inversions have changed the way he looks at the world entirely, even when he’s walking on his feet like the rest of us. In the photo above, we can clearly see the mythological Narcissus, gazing lovingly at his own reflection. But would we have, if he hadn’t framed it thus in his photo? If we had just been walking by the lake on the way to work?
This week, Dennis put out a book of these images, The Inverted Mirror World, available by following the link to Blurb. You can preview the entire book there and see just how full of jewels it really is. Each photograph is something to spend time with, and I often find that in different moods, I see different things.
At the beginning of the book is “Yin and Yang,” the same photo shown right-side up and upside-down (you get to decide which is which)-- in one direction, the photo shows a figure with female characteristics, and in the other, the traits are clearly male:
And here is good news: on a bad day, go out and take a walk. Hang upside-down from a park bench. Force the world to change. And when you least expect it...
A Knight in Shining Armor....