Looking on Craigslist or Ebay always unearths some hidden gems. Hopefully, these are gems you were actually looking for, but for Eric Oglander his hunt for second-hand goods unearthed an ongoing project that he’s been working on for the last four years, documenting hilariously odd images of people photographing mirrors to sell.
Publishing his findings across Tumblr and then Instagram, Eric’s eye for mirrors displays a reflective portal into the homes of complete strangers. Some are intriguing because of the setting, a mirror photographed in a Mickey Mouse themed bathroom for instance. Others present a surprising reflection such as wood adjacent to a house, making the mirrors look like photographs rather than reflections of a real thing, and some are just humorous because there’s someone, usually a child, holding up the mirror to photograph with their heads peeking out.
No matter the reflection formed, Eric’s findings are unexplainably fascinating, which is why it makes complete sense for his discoveries to be published in a book Craigslist Mirrors, a talking point for any household’s bookshelf. Below we have a chat with Eric to find out how the project began and subsequently spiralled, and then trying to make sense about why we — and 20,000 other Instagram followers — are hooked on looking at someone else’s mirror when we look into our own everyday.
Can you tell us about the first time you saw a mirror on Craigslist?
I was living in Nashville and looking through the garage sale section on Craigslist. People often post images of what they’re selling and someone had posted a photo of a convex security mirror. The protective plastic coating hadn’t been removed and the two people reflected had a ghostly quality because of it. I thought it was a strong image, that was a little over four years ago.
How did it spiral into an Instagram account? Was there a point where you thought, “I’ve got to do something with this”?
Shortly after starting to collect images I moved to NYC. During my first visit to Printed Matter I decided they were deserving of a book. I looked into self-publishing but couldn’t afford it, so I started the Tumblr instead.
It quickly went viral and existed only on Tumblr for over a year. I then decided to start the Instagram since I used it more frequently for my personal Instagram and the page where I sell stuff that I find and make called @tihngs.
What do you think it is about mirrors in particular that allow images to become humorous or just a little strange?
It’s the clarity of the reflection. It has the same power as a photograph. When you take a photo of a mirror it’s like having two photos of the same space in a single image. It transforms a space, creates unexpected juxtapositions and offers a glimpse into people’s lives. They’re slightly voyeuristic.
Do people now send you submissions or do you keep searching yourself?
I still don’t take submissions but people often send me images from Craigslist. I like seeing what other people are attracted to.
Can you tell us how Craigslist Mirrors’ online presence developed into a book?
As I said earlier, I wanted to make a book from the start but didn’t have the means. After the project gained some traction I was contacted by Mari Con who then worked at TBW [a photography book publisher] in Oakland, and is an amazing photographer. She mentioned making a zine and it gradually turned into a proper book – thanks Mari! I selected over 200 images and then Mari and I met in California to slowly whittle it down.
Later, I started working with Lester Rosso and Paul Schiek (TBW’s owner) on the final edit. I kept finding more images during the process and some made their way into the book. TBW makes beautiful work and I’m honoured to be in their roster. They’re also wonderful humans.
Do you have a favourite, and if so why?
I’ve long considered this one (above) to be my favourite. It looks as though a block forest has been leaned against the garage of a mundane home. It feels conceptually potent without a speck of intention behind it. That’s what I like about this image and the project in general.
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