The day finally arrived where we could test our masks with a larger number of people across a longer distance. We arrived at Ashton Park School
in Bristol and, after a quick introduction to the students, we marched them all out onto the playing fields.
We had previously marked out the line but we were faced with our first challenge. Despite the line being perfectly straight on ground level, once Duncan was on the roof where the camera equipment was, it became obvious that the field dipped down which meant the line kinked in and out. It took ages to straighten out with Duncan sending instructions of where to move students via walkie talkie. Lesson 1:
When we do the actual event we will have marked the line out well in advance and double checked it's straightness in relation to the camera position.
Duncan took the mirrors away for drilling and symbol painting along with the template we had created to establish the eye holes' position. This determined how big the Reflect symbol could be and also enabled us to have the overall uniformity we wanted. The hand painting of each symbol however, still gave each mirror an individual quality, with no two brush marks the same.
After our initial test with 15 people
lined up with mirrors on Brandon Hill in Bristol, we have been keen to test the idea with a larger group, ideally 100, also with the actual masks we are going to use for the real event in US/Mexico. We thought about how we could get this number of people to help us and we thought we would contact a local school. They loved the sound of the project and were more than willing to help. Their grounds are very big - although not big enough to do fit 100 students, the staff are super friendly and have offered up to 40 14 year olds from the Art, Photography and Textiles classes.
Last Friday we went to the school and established the sun's position at certain times of the day so that we know where to position our line and have even managed to persuade them to let us photograph from one of their roofs.
We have to do a quick talk next week at the school to explain the project and what we're trying to achieve, with those interested signing up. The only thing that could possible go wrong is the good old British weather not delivering the sun!
Duncan and David trudged up to Brandon Hill in Bristol yesterday determined to get a human mirror line working, in principle at least. Our first test where we had mirrors on posts hammered into the ground had mixed results and was difficult to control. But at least it demonstrated early on that only human control of the mirror could properly aim the sun beam to where we needed it. Plus testing this idea includes how to organise groups and even though it was 14 and not 100, it's a start.
In the eventual installation on the US/Mexico border each person will be wearing a mirrored mask, but for the purposes of the test they were simply holding a mirror and trying to aim a sun reflection back to Duncan. Recruiting people to get involved was easier than we thought. We simply marked out a line in mirrors in relation to the sun's position, and the nearby picnickers became curious and asked what we were doing. Once we told them they all wanted to get involved and seemed to really like the ethos behind the project. We were really lucky to have such a great bunch willing to help and the effect of just 14 mirrors was better than we thought.
Next time going to try and get an even longer human line and will shoot from a variety of angles rather than just from the front.
Myself and Duncan went up to Ashton Court in Bristol armed with mirrors of various sizes and posts to bash into the ground. We obviously knew that a mirror will reflect the sun but what we didn't know was how a line of mirrors would work especially from a fixed position and a constantly changing sun position. Basically it didn't really work. The posts kept leaning back too much and it was hard to get the effect we wanted.
So we learned that in reality the only way to truly test the idea is to feature people so that they can each aim the sun beam back to the photographer themselves.
We did it! We staged Reflect yesterday and it was amazing. We haven't looked at all of the footage yet but what we have seen so far suggests it's going to be great. We got amazing support from the mayors of both Douglas and Agua Prieta, Border Arts Corridor on both sides of the border in particular Laura Rios, Martina Rendon, Diana LaMar, Dave Turillo and last but not least Alejandra Preciado - future President of Mexico (you heard it here first). Also big thanks to our fantastic camera crew, Paul, Joe, Ben, John and Puspa.