I have developed a photographic technique that involves capturing images of the surface of glass windows in such a way that a seeming illusion of spacial blending occurs.  I call this technique Windowpane.  Glass is a material that both reflects and refracts light.  The visual effects produced by this reflection/refraction are dependent on the transparency of the material, the surface configuration, and the physical construction within which the glass is held.  For example:

Plate glass is extremely smooth and highly transparent. Under proper lighting conditions it creates a mirror-like reflected image that can be qualitatively indistinguishable from the refracted image from inside the glass. In the detail from Class Act below, for example, the clearly reflected outside image blends smoothly with the refracted inside image.

detail from Class Act

Beveled glass or other cut and patterned glass has a prismatic effect on the image. Here is an example of this effect from Mesilla New Mexico.

detail from untitled

Multiple parallel panes of glass or insulated glass, which is very common in contemporary buildings, can cause reflected images to double or triple –sometimes to interesting effect. For example, this photograph made at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

detail from Marinated Eggplant Salad

Visual effects with the windowpane technique

Many effects are possible using this technique and I am actively exploring several (art is an exploration after all). These effects, along with visual semiotics, provide the artistic vocabulary for the windowpane photographs. Below are some examples of some of the visual effects that appear in the San Francisco 2015 windowpane photographs:

The inside/outside duality. Sometimes this plays out as simple visual ambiguity, and at other times in a dialog of the semiotics of the reflected and refracted images. In the image below, a line of people (reflected) are headed into (or out of) Chocolate Heaven (refracted). Light conditions effect the balance between the reflected and refracted images (or a multiplicity of reflections/refractions in a complex environment, and this effect can clearly be seen in Chocolate Heaven with the cascade of chocolate packaging in the right side of the photograph.

Chocolate Heaven

The inside/outside ambiguity can be greatly amplified by multiple reflective surfaces in multiple planes. This effect is something like the infinite propagation that one experiences when looking in a mirror with a parallel mirror directly behind. In the image 180% APR below, two pairs of reflective planes at right angles create a the complex spacial relationships of reflective surfaces.

180% APR

Reflectivity of surfaces on either side of the glass has significant effect on the the blending of inside/outside. Light object reflect light and darker objects absorb light. When a dark object is reflected (from the outside) this allows more of the light from the inside to be captured in the image. Conversely, a light object on the outside will reflect more dramatically, obscuring the light from the inside. For objects inside of the glass, the opposite is true: darker objects create more reflection of the outside and lighter objects less. This effect can be a real 'wild card' in the images, particularly in an urban environment, as people and objects may be constantly moving in and out of the frame. In the untitled photograph below, this effect can be clearly seen in the interplay if inside/outside imagery.


Advertising and signboards fronted with glass or plexiglass present a special opportunity. Because the reflected surface is in close proximity to the image of the sign, a spacial flattening occurs that creates an overlaid effect of one image on top of another and/or an effect of total contextual ambiguity between the context of the sign (e.g. an advertising image) and the context of the reflection (the context within which the sign physically exists). In Don’t Be Afraid, below, the advertising image takes on a very different meaning (even different for each viewer) due to the conflation of the signboard and its context and the editing, through re-framing, of the text.

Don’t Be Afraid

As I have written above, all of these effects are seeming illusions. There is nothing visual being created here; the technique simply captures what is already in the visual field, but frequently goes unnoticed –filtered out by the brain's construction of a coherent visual reality. As an artist, the opportunity is to use framing, the creative variables of visual semiotics, and the image qualities inherent in the windowpane technique to the best effect in creating a compelling and meaningful image.