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· Culture Notes: Mirror Stage

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Culture Notes: Mirror Stage
by Li Wen

2006 003

Sydney, August 2006

From one of my very first sessions with Melissa, shot on film and hand-developed. Mid-morning, sleep-deprived, I was wearing typical weekend gear: soft jeans, a t-shirt from AMUNC 2006, a light jacket to ward off the outdoor winter chill. Melissa's assignment from her teachers called for honesty, a set of portraits that could reveal the character of the subject, and so I presented my barest, truest and most curmudgeonly face to the world.

Between shots, I was sipping my first coffee of the day from a steaming Deadwood crew mug that I'd won off an internet competition, and I imagined myself trading insults with Charlie Utter, sharing tots of whiskey with Calamity Jane, before we all rode off on new (and smelly) adventures in the Black Hills. Yet even that is partly play-acting; the black scarf-beanie, which seems to suck in all the light from the picture, was not merely covering my unwashed and messy hair, but seemed to hint at a shyness, a willingness to disappear that cut against my direct gaze and tough-gal exterior.

* * *

2009 006dxqzc

Sydney, August 2009

The year before Wolf, my family's German Shepherd, passed away, he was going deaf, half-blind, and contending daily with pain in his hips, yet still the sweetest and most intelligent of creatures. There are few human beings toward whom I hold the depth of unreserved affection that I give my dogs, and fewer still that I am comfortable with demonstrating that affection with. The love of dogs is uncomplicated, undemanding, incapable of dishonesty; the love of adults anything but.

* * *

2010 Hunter 28

Hunter Valley, December 2010

Right after Christmas, six months after I had finished my MPolEc and started working full-time, Melissa, a friend visiting from Germany, and I went on a day-trip to the local wine region, about 2.5 hours drive away from Sydney. We lunched outdoors, sitting on benches and lying on giant beanbags strewn across the lawn. The aggressive asexuality of my early twenties had mellowed somewhat. I was relaxed, slightly buzzed from wine tastings, enjoying my first real holiday in over a year.

I wore a minimalist echo of the outfit from 2006: black skinny jeans (UNIQLO), a grey linen t-shirt with a slouchy fit (Country Road), black Converse, and sunglasses (Jac + Jack). The difference now being that I was wearing the clothes, the clothes weren't wearing me.

All photographs were taken by Melissa Graf.


12/11/2011 [6]

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