One day I encountered a photo of a man looking through a car window as sunlight reflected his view of the nearby cityscape. Soon afterward, I began this portrait series, of which four images are shown here, in my hometown of Vence, near Nice, France.
I photographed residents in moments of daily life while looking through glass, and I added further perspective with interviews. It was a challenge to create such multilayered narrative portraits, especially as I was determined to avoid digital retouching. The area before the glass had to be in deep shadow for the reflected scene to be visible. The reflected scene, in turn, had to be extremely bright. My subjects had to hold the glass in a precise position while excluding me, the camera, and my assistant holding the softbox flash that provided supplementary light.
Top left: “When I was little, I used to sit by the window at night and look at the moon for ages. I was born with an organ malformation and had eight operations before I was 6 years old. I’m still a bit of a dreamer ... outdoors, in the town’s open spaces, I feel free.” —Hugo, 16
Top right “The medieval town center is pretty. There are lots of shortcuts when you know your way around, but I don’t like coming here on my own. The streets are empty and dark, and I feel afraid. I’m learning judo. It’s good to be strong.”
Bottom left: “I lived the first 20 years of my life in this street, and I loved it. All the kids used to play together in the street, on bikes, on roller skates, while our grandparents sat around keeping an eye on us. At Eid and Easter, all our neighbors had big communal meals together.”
Bottom right: “My identity as Mediterranean comes before my identity as French, and Vence is a Mediterranean town to me. I feel I have more in common with a Tunisian than a Parisian. We share the same chat, the same laughter, the same light.” —Anthony, 33