Constantly searching Craigslist’s “for sale” section for compelling photos of mirrors, artist Eric Oglander has been curating other people’s reflective “accidental masterpieces” since 2013, now chronicled in his project, Craigslist Mirrors.
The images that Oglander collects give a stunning voyeuristic glimpse into people’s everyday lives. Though the majority of the faces in the found photos are too grainy to decipher an identity, the project feels alive with the frequent reflections of a leg, a torso or a tongue-in-cheek peace sign.
Blurring the line between documentation and art and, at times, artist and collector, Oglander displays the sourced imagery as a cohesive collection, giving context to obscurity, and breathing life into an otherwise anonymous platform.
Ahead of his forthcoming book release, Mirrors, slated for debut at the LA Art Book Fair next month, we caught up with Oglander to learn how the project started and to find out how much time he actually spends on Craigslist each day.
How did “Craigslist Mirrors” originally begin?
“When I was 18, I began buying and reselling vintage bikes that I’d find on Craigslist. I did this for a number of years (and still do). When I was 22 I moved to Santa Cruz, California and didn’t have a job, so I turned to buying and reselling to make rent. Garage sales, estate sales, the local flea market and Craigslist supplied me with enough product. I had to hound Craigslist to snatch up the good deals and also utilized it for the garage sale listings. Occasionally I’d stumble upon some imagery in the listings that I thought was compelling or beautiful and would save it in a folder or share it with friends on Facebook. I think I was looking at the garage sale listings when I saw the first mirror that struck me, which was this one:
I then started searching for mirrors specifically and soon had hundreds collected. It was after moving to NYC and visiting Printed Matter that I decided it would make for a great photo book. I researched self-publishing and found it to be prohibitively expensive, so I made the Tumblr account instead.”
Are you still an avid Craigslist user outside of your project?
“Yes, I visit Craigslist multiple times a day. I try to buy everything on Craigslist first and if not there then on eBay. I search for bikes and bike parts, both to resell and for my personal use. I search for classic cars, cameras, furniture and antiques. The free section is always entertaining, too, and often has some nice things. I’d be curious to know how much collective time I’ve spent on that website.”
How much time per day do you spend on Craigslist?
“I’d say I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours a day on Craigslist. When I first started the project, I was working very little. I was spending nearly entire days hunting for mirrors. It felt like a waste of time since I moved to NYC to make and show the work I construct with my hands, but I soon realized that people saw the same beauty in the photos that I did. That was an exciting moment.”
The Washington Post labeled your work a commentary on modern American life. Was that the goal of this project?
“I wasn’t consciously trying to achieve ‘a commentary on American life,’ but I do think it encompasses that. I was simply interested in the inadvertent beauty of the photos and the concept of pulling imagery from one website to another, enabling it to then exist as ‘art.’ No other object for sale poses such a challenge in photography.
I’m interested in witnessing how different individuals deal with a reflective surface. I’m interested in having a voyeuristic glimpse into people’s homes. I’m interested in people’s lack of aesthetic awareness—the fact that they’re capturing wonderful moments and not noticing it. I’ve long been a collector and maker of objects and I think all of my work speaks the language of what can be found or what already exists but isn’t seen. I also collect found photography. I’m a collector of so many different things and I absolutely love the hunt.”
Do you take submissions or is the project entirely personal finds?
“I made the decision early on to not accept submissions. I think what makes the project special is that it’s curated by one person. That’s what I love about art and photography—seeing an individual’s eye. This doesn’t stop people from sending them to me, and I love seeing what other folks are attracted to. They’re generally not photos that I would collect.”