currently: taking a different look at glasses

i’ve been thinking a lot about glasses these days; glasses as a fashion accessory, as a necessity, as a signifier of intelligence, desireability, gender or class. what do your glasses say about you? as someone who has worn glasses since two thirds of my life, how strange is it to hear people with perfect vision say they “wish” they needed glasses? how differently do i feel about wearing glasses now, as a young professional woman, than i did when i was a young girl? i’ve written about it before, but it shouldn’t surprise me that i have a lot of thoughts and feelings about something i choose to wear every single day.

vision as represented in photography has really been ringing my bell these past few months. i recently rewatched two old favourites of mine this past week, man with a movie camera (1929) and la jetée (1965). thinking about the camera as almost a pair of glasses for the viewer, permitting the audience to see things in a clearer way – or even, to see things they would otherwise never be able to.

i’ve also kind of been completely besotted with surrealist photography, something i knew very little about before this summer thanks in part to a fantastic exhibition on at the musée national des beaux-arts du québec right now. to be honest i’ve never been too smitten with the surrealist movement more generally, but this exhibition has offered a different perspective…  thinking about the possibilities the early days of accessible photography provided, combined with an incredible cocktail of creative uppity artists and feminists makes my heart beat just a bit faster.

a new pair of frames are in the mail, and i’ve got some other thoughts about glasses stores i’m slowly but surely processing. in the meantime, here is some eye-candy: literally.

Women with fire masks, Downshire Hill, London, 1941. Lee Miller

Lee Miller, by Man Ray

Lee Miller, by Man Ray

film still from Dziga Vertov’s Chelovek s kinoapparatom (The Man with a Movie Camera). 1929

Vertov, a Soviet film director, redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography through the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), asserting that the recording proficiency of the camera lens made it superior to the human eye. In a double image in Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Parabola optica (Optical Parable), 1931; gelatin silver print; 9 3/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. (24.77 cm x 18.42 cm); Collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser; © Colette Urbajtel / Asociación Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Parabola optica (Optical Parable), 1931

WILLIAM WITT The Eye, Lower East Side, NYC, 1948  gelatin silver print, 10 3/4 x 12 inches

The Eye, Lower East Side, NYC, 1948 by William Witt

From Ken Russel's "Teddy Girls" series (1950s)

From Ken Russel’s “Teddy Girls” series (1950s) thanks andi!

Jaromír Funke

Film still from Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound," 1945

Film still from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” 1945

as always, click the photos for more details and links!


Filed under art, currently

3 responses to “currently: taking a different look at glasses

  1. I have to admit I was one of those people who used to ‘wish’ they had to wear glasses but several things over the years have changed my mind (not least the cost) though I still, of course, love the design of glasses over the years. Especially gorgeous vintage frames. I’ve toyed with the idea of a tattoo of a pair of fancy cateye frames (but as someone who doesn’t need to wear glasses I’ve wondered about it.)
    Anyway, I love this post. I love surrealist photography (probably also more than other surrealist art) and I’m bummed I just miss the exhibition!

  2. i look exactly the same with any change of glasses, but look so strangely different when i’m not wearing any. glasses can become an identity token for many. i really can’t conceive myself without them; i feel they’ve played such a huge role in the development of my personality and fashion sense. seeing so many people nowadays wearing glasses without lenses is a bit awkward, for example, but i can see how interesting they can be to others as mere accessories — we focus on vision and on the eyes a lot more than we usually and consciously perceive.

    also, those photos are fantastic!

  3. I think about glasses a lot, too. Once I began to identify as genderqueer, glasses became an even more important signifier of my gender than they had been in the past, and searching for a new pair (both because I was sick of the frames I was wearing, which were tortoiseshell cateyes with dozens of rhinestones, and obviously read as lady-like and femme-y, thus more likely to encourage people to read me as ‘girl’, and also because I was due for a new prescription) was highly stressful. I still shopped in the “women’s” section of because those were the frames I was drawn to the most, plus I knew that I still wanted something ridiculous, just not necessarily girly. Love Brand glasses were my favourite right away, they all have hearts on them, and I ended up choosing a pair of thick black frames with hearts that I feel could be worn by any gender, and altered my appearance in a way I was pleased with.

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