Updated: Jun 13
Today I begin studies for my Master of Arts Degree in Photography with Falmouth University in the United Kingdom. It’s a flexible program that is mostly online, with some in-person events and studies throughout the program in the UK and other areas of the world. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I haven't yet found a place to call home in either Paris or London, so I still live in Seattle, WA. As a result, most of my classes will take place at 3am my time. Thankfully, I’ve got a recurring order of Nespresso pods and will receive regular shipments of espresso throughout my program. Coffee is the fuel that I run on… well, that and healthy amounts of whiskey and wine. After all, I am a working photojournalist. So, don’t go looking in my mini-bar when I’m on assignment… it’s already empty.
The study is already rigorous and the program requires us to keep a weekly journal of our studies called a Critical Research Journal, or CRJ. This is mine. The CRJ is a place for us to document the progress of our work, and regularly contextualize the research around our Final Major Project. It's also used as a place for us to reflect on our weekly assignments in the form of an individual blog with posts relevant to our studies and practice.
This is my first entry on the topic of mirrors and windows in relation to photographic practice. I found this first topic to be quite interesting as mirrors and windows are analogous to how photographers figuratively see the world. In fact, as photographers our job is to literally see the world for a living; to capture the moments that we experience and preserve them for others to experience. It’s no accident that the first photographs were shot through windows, because that is how we see the world. We look through a small window on our cameras, the viewfinder, and the camera reflects back the moment before us. With every click of the shutter we expose more about ourselves than we do of the world around us. We identify in some way with the scene we’re capturing and we develop that scene in the way we view it so that we can share that moment with the world. It is in this way that the camera acts as both a mirror and a window, reflecting a moment that we experience and then enabling others to look at that moment through our eyes. The photograph we captured acts like a window in time. This is one of the beautiful things about photography.. sharing moments.
Personally, I most identify with the mirror analogy because I feel like I am reflecting little bits of myself with each photograph that I take. Regardless of whether I’m on assignment as a photojournalist capturing life as it unfolds before me, or working as a high-concept portrait photographer shooting staged scenes, every photograph I take is a mirror into my soul. Every photograph I take reflects pieces of me and expose more about myself than the scenes I am capturing.
And that is what we all do as photographers, isn’t it? We take photos. We steal moments from the world, and commit them eternally. This is why I became a photographer, to explore, preserve, and inspire. I am driven by an insatiable curiosity about our world, and a relentless calling to explore the unknown. This curiosity has taken me all over this little blue planet of ours and the people and places I’ve photographed have enriched my life more than I’ll ever be able to say in words. So, instead, I capture photographs of these moments and let the images tell the story for me.
"I am driven by an insatiable curiosity about our world, and a relentless calling to explore the unknown (Chacon 2022)."
My current photographic practice is to explore the racial and economic inequality that exists in the world, and use photography to inspire others to bridge that divide in any way that makes a difference, big or small. This is why I’ve chosen to make my long-term photo documentary project, Lottery, the focus of my studies at Falmouth University and my final major project for my MA program. I’ll travel to conflict zones around the world and photograph portraits of children living in these war-torn regions. They’ll be dressed in the clothing of their dream profession - doctors, business people, artists - and my portraits will tell their stories of what they hope to become if we can only stop destroying their dreams.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a photographer traveling the world and documenting conflict, it’s that the world needs more artists… and more love. It is my goal to use my photography to inspire people living in comfortable Western society to take action and help even one child survive and escape a conflict zone so that they may pursue their dreams and have the same opportunities that most of us take for granted.
Figure 1: Mat CHACON. 2022. Self-Portrait In A Mirror. Private collection: Mat Chacon
Figure 2. Louis-Jacques-Mandé DAGURRE. 1838. View of the Boulevard du Temple. Wikipedia [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daguerreotype#/media/File:Boulevard_du_Temple_by_Dagu
Figure 3: Mat CHACON. 2022. Stop Destroying My Dreams. Private collection: Mat Chacon