(Full disclaimer: it’s my son in the photo, and he’s also the person taking the photo.)
As a general sci-fi fan I find the concept of parallel dimensions, fractured realities and alternate planes of existence quite compelling. If you’re any sort of a sci-fi fan you’ll almost certainly have encountered the concept: Fringe is one of the most recent examples I can think of but it’s something that’s cropped up numerous times in various Star Trek episodes.
This photo doesn’t quite give us any alternative dimensions (that we know of), but it does fracture the visual plane quite a bit. It also shows us a viewpoint that would be next to impossible to see with just our eyes thanks to the various reflections captured. Photographs where you can see the photographer are, inevitably, a little bit meta but in those shots the photographer is typically photographing themselves. Here we have a case of an accidental selfie: what is actually being photographed is shown, appropriately enough, within the lens of the camera (although I’m not sure if it’s being reflected by the lens or simply by the window in front of the camera) but it’s now one of multiple subjects. In this single photo we can see the camera capturing both its subject and object.
Linguistically speaking I think the camera/photographer should be the subject and the house the object… and yet we typically say that a photographer photographs a subject. Anyway…
The photograph not only shows us simultaneously what is in front and behind the photographer, but also both an interior and exterior. Normally you could achieve this by photographing a window from inside the house: the outer edges (or frame) of the photo would show the interior while the exterior would be confined within that frame. Here we have the opposite: the exterior is the frame, reflected in the glass, and the interior is most clearly seen within the camera lens (and through the glass to a lesser extent). Intriguingly we can also see a second exterior within the window frame in the middle of the photo.
So, in a typical photo you’d see a single plane: whatever’s in front of the camera. In this photo we have, by my count, at least five planes. Starting from the rearmost we have:
- The exterior (trees, sky, the outside of the building – all behind the photographer)
- The photographer (and camera)
- The window directly in front of the camera
- The interior (what you might think of as the intended subject)
- A second exterior seen through the window
All that from one photo. Beats 3D anyday 😉
Some of you Doctor Who fans might remember various attempts to explain why the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside. One involved holding the larger of two boxes further away so it would appear to fit inside a smaller box (boxes; not cows…). Another one suggested that a large building could appear to fit inside a TV set simply by showing it on the screen. All optical illusions effectively, but used to explain physical impossibilities.
Is your head hurting yet?