03 March 2011

Mirror images

I read a blog the other day; it had a video at the end, used to illustrate some points in the text.  But, I thought it looked somehow odd. I looked more carefully — it had been reversed; it was a mirror image video, though the sub-titles were normal. There was no obvious reason for this, except perhaps to try to maintain a fiction that it was an American rather than a British video — there was a short scene with a car that made this clear.
It’s not that uncommon to find mirror-image pictures in magazines or newspapers. Usually, this is done so that the profile of the author or person being commented on ‘looks into’ the story, as if he/she was showing their interest and possibly their approval. And sometimes, when the sub-editors want to put distance between the piece and the photograph, the profile will look away, often looking beyond the limits of the magazine. Quite literally, they are looking out.
These are mostly subconscious impressions, designed to make and reinforce a point in the article. Or just possibly, a mistake. In the days of the wet photographic darkroom, it was easy enough to put the film into the enlarger the wrong way round — instead of ‘emulsion to emulsion’ and if it was a picture of someone you didn’t know, you wouldn’t necessarily recognise the error. Today, this isn’t possible in digital processing, unless you make a conscious choice to ‘flip’ the image.
It’s curious too, that we aren’t expected to see the deception. Many people think that their left and right profiles are similar, but they aren’t. Take a full face on portrait, divide it vertically down the middle, and separate the two halves. Now take the right half, copy it and ‘flip’ it, and then join up the two seamlessly. Do the same for the left side. You now have three pictures, yet all three will show different people. It’s surprising just how asymmetrical peoples’ faces really are. And of course, there are the changes in hairstyle and parting which can give the game away. And buttonholes on suits, and how the suit actually buttons up.
It used to be common in car manufacturers’ advertising material, with ‘continental’ models being passed off as British. There was generally a note in tiny print to the effect that some fittings were not available in the UK. This deceit seems to have stopped, there is no pretence at pretence now — but this mirror imaging has been replaced by crude Photoshopping to blur the wheels to give an impression of speed.
Mirror images don’t fool some of us any of the time. Just stop doing it.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post. I can't say I noticed the that the video have been flipped. Will have to go and have a proper look now.