Looking Through the Looking Glass

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Bay Jia Wei (17S06R)

Photographs by Joel Lim (16S06B) of Raffles Photographic Society

First things first, I wasn’t even supposed to be covering this photography event, but one of my reporters had taken ill, and so here I was loitering around the Black Box. Photography has its place in the category of “Art Forms I Can Never Comprehend”. Naturally, I was feeling rather reluctant, thinking that I’d just appear incredibly dumb looking at aesthetic photographic displays and not getting what I was supposed to get.  I mean, Through the Looking Glass is very telling of the undesirable sophistication behind whatever I was about to see.

How very wrong was I.

Entering the Black Box, I realised that the exhibition was completely different from what I’d expected. Unlike my stereotypical, uninformed vision of a photography exhibition, this one did not have endless rows of mobile white walls plastered with photographs. Instead, it had stations – and many of them were interactive.

For instance, the face swap interactive display


Shortly after the commencement of the exhibition, Vice-Chairperson of Raffles Photographic Society, Nadya Ang (16S03D), delivered her speech. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There”, she explained that the showcase sought to arouse all five senses, whilst focusing on the themes: people and spaces – specifically how we define ourselves, and how we view the spaces around us.

An exhibit that engaged the senses of sight, hearing, and imagination


The allusion to Lewis Carroll’s classic led me to think of the idea of a “reflection”. Within the looking glass, everything is backwards, leaving us with no choice but to scrutinise what is around us, and to investigate the intuitive through a counterintuitive lens. In that manner, more time and care is spent on unravelling the meaning, and perhaps encourages us to delve into introspection.

Seeing Ceylon: A series of photos that spoke of the photographer’s introspective outlook on his experience in Sri Lanka


Of the many looking glasses featured, I was drawn to a cage for it was the most out of place, a structure right smack in the middle of the Black Box. “Would you like to get in?” Such was the invitation extended to me by one of the photographers and a teacher-in-charge.

Curiouser and curiouser, I crawled in.  

A cage!


Surrounding me, within the cage, were photographs of smiling dogs and children. It was all quite adorable. “How do you feel?” asked the photographer. I have never really understood what I’m supposed to feel, and so I just replied in the most ambiguous terms, “confused”.

Yea, that’s how they feel.”

Caged dogs, caged children – they could’ve been smiling, but once caged, are confused and hurt. Caged in, they are isolated; caged out, excluded.

The play in perspectives was intelligent, and how the structure involved us physically in the process of meaning-making even more so. I was thoroughly impressed by the exhibition’s overall probing at autonomous thinking – how it told without revealing much, indulged our curiosity, and left us to our own meaning-making devices.
Thank you Raffles Photographic Society for the unexpected adventure. 11/10 would recommend.

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