Driving To Hope

Photographers in mirror are closer than they appear.

Have you ever considered what photos you keep taking over and over again? Perhaps you find yourself repeatedly photographing petunias, street lights, or your neighbor’s Bichon Frisé. Elliott Erwitt’s book “Dogs”” is worth exploring if you’re cuckoo for cocoa puffs over canines. Andy Warhol’s famous product series has even become more iconic than the products themselves, such that Campbell’s soup cans instantly bring to mind Warhol’s thirty-two canvas paintings still hanging in MoMA. Photographers draw themselves to certain motifs that recur in their work and self-portraits through rear-view mirrors have become the signature element of my photography, persisting over many years and down different roads.

The first self-portrait was taken in photographer Leonid Lubianitsky‘s car as he was shopping for film at B&H Photo (Lubianitsky had worked as an assistant for Richard Avedon before landing his own footing at Vogue magazine; he had taught me about the zone system and introduced me to Eugene Smith, to this day my favourite photographer). The second is of me being driven to the set of “Momma Would Be Proud,” the first (and last) thesis film I would crew on my sophomore year at NYU. I didn’t yet know how to drive. So, I was taken places.

One recurring theme is that I have my seat belt on: lens cap off and safety first.

Over the years I’ve taken ten self-portraits in rear-view mirrors, and these pictures speak my story’s sense of movement, as I have always been somebody who “goes somewhere.” The road has shaped my identity as much as home, leaving New York, to the pit stop in Los Angeles, and the garage of Vancouver, where I’ve parked my wheels. Ten self-portraits may not be enough for my next photo book, and while I have plenty of selfies in other reflective surfaces: storefronts, or water, the rear-view mirror is the signature I want to keep. And I will add to my collection through the future pictures I will take out of cars, now armed with knowledge of the motif that moves with me.
Now that I’ve discovered this motif, I am motivated to explore its passage. Why not snap a picture of myself in the rear-view mirror of a public bus? Or hitchhike with an eighteen-wheeler truck for the extraordinary challenge of capturing my reflection in the elongated mirror that these trucks posses. Or later for all kinds of cars: the coupe, the limo, the station wagon. I shan’t force the look, rather remember to have my camera handy whenever I am in the front passenger seat.
... to the Richmond Sunflower Festival.


. . . and speaking of shotguns, the reason the catchphrase has entered our lexicon is from the days when the “shotgun guard” would ride along beside the stagecoach driver as his bodyguard, looking out for bandits and other lawless brethren. Yes, the origin is from the stagecoaches of the Wild Wild West. Can you imagine early photographers lugging their clunky field cameras around, attempting to capture their reflections in non-existent mirrors while riding in bumpy stagecoaches? I didn’t think so, for these days are easier for photographers in motion.
Campbell River
Campbell River

After thinking about my experiences with photographic signatures, I invite you to explore your own work and discover the patterns that weave together to form your style. What subjects, techniques, or compositions define your way of seeing?

Thanks for looking at my brief autobiography of adventures in the rear-view mirror.

Boris Riabov

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Beau Photo Supplies Inc.
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