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The Villager, December 8, 1999, Lifestyles

A different kind of mirror image, by Wickham Boyl

Mirror, mirror on the wall, I don't look like that at all!

Thankfully, none of us look like the reflected images we see when we peer into a mirror. All of our images are reversed. We all know that no one is symmetrical, unless they are Cher and then it is by virtue or vice of plastic augmentation. So we are imperfect, off-center creatures who never see ourselves through the eyes of outsiders. As Robert Burns so eloquently said, "Oh what a gift to see ourselves as others see us." If you would like to know what you really look like, hasten on over to a tiny store on East First Street called True Mirror.

The store is very simple, a gallery of sorts, but the message behind it and the complicated ideas bound up in simple reflection is as amazing as the true images you'll find there. The project was begun by a brother and sister duo: John and Catherine Walter. Siblings from a large family, he trained as a physicist and computer scientist and she as an anthropologist. They have come together marketing, fabricating and nearly evangelically selling an item that all of us has at least ten of in our lives: a mirror. What makes these mirrors unique is that unlike the original reflecting glass, a still body of water or silvered glass, the images at True Mirror show your face in its true right-to-left configuration. It is spooky because although we have seen photos, which don't reverse our images, we are used to only seeing ourselves in reverse.

This may account, says Catherine Walter, for so many people saying they hate a certain photograph when others say, "It looks so much like you." It is a true image of ourselves.

Catherine's training as an anthropologist gives her deep insight and love for the way human animals communicate. She believes that a true Mirror becomes a tool of self-awareness for all individuals who are seeking to delve into the emotive persona. This True Mirror is not for make-up application, shaving or hastily adjusting earrings. As a matter of fact it took me a few stabs to even find which ear corresponded to the loose earring I was wearing while visiting the store. What did amaze me was seeing a mole or a scar reversed from where I normally place it. The individual geographic equivalent of flying west to go to Europe and heading toward Maine to go to Japan. It is unsettling and I love to be shaken up by me.

The Walter duo will amaze you with the depth and breadth of research they have done and continue to do. They have a theory which at first may seem hair-brained but upon reflection and reading of data is fascinating. It is the "hair part theory" and basically it states that where a person parts his or her hair is related to many subconscious associations. You know, if you part on the right you want to draw attention to the right side of the brain which is the artistic, more non-linear skills. These messages can all be read more clearly if you have a true mirror that reflects what the rest of the world sees.

The storefront in the East Village has a number of these mirrors for gazing. They are precise optical instruments and are housed in wooden boxes that are adjusted like a camera lens. The mirror works because there are two hemispheres that co-ordinate your two images. A small one costs $195 and a large one $295. The Walters advise keeping it for at least a month in order to adjust. Anyone who has abided by that caveat has kept the mirror. It's the hasty who ask, "Mirror, mirror on the…" and don't like the response they get who return the mirror and revert back to looking not like themselves.

Photo caption: Non-reversed reflection of a placard at the True Mirror Co.