The guy in the picture above may look like he’s trying out for a method-acting award, but the truth is that he’s just looking at his own face in what he thinks is an innocuous mirror on a public street in Sweden. But hidden behind that mirror is Moa Karlberg‘s camera, snapping away. She’s collected the results into an arresting series called “Watching You Watching Me,” which captures the unvarnished, intense gazes we all direct at the people that, deep down, we care about the most: ourselves.
And if you assume that she only photographed self-absorbed mustachioed douchebags, think again:
The expressions on her subjects’ faces range from blank to suspicious to searching to resigned and everything in between, but they’re all brutally authentic. Karlberg writes that she was intent on “discovering how a photographer can get as close as possible to others without acting illegal.” (She also wanted to test the boundaries of Sweden’s increasingly strict laws on public photography.) That this intense range of emotions seems also to be self-commentary on the subjects — they are, after all, looking right at themselves — only makes them more fascinating.
“Since I was a kid I’ve always fantasized about having a secret camera inside my eye to capture peoples expressions,” Karlberg tells Co.Design. “This was kind of a way to realise that.” We agree: mission accomplished. “Watching You Watching Me” is just as revealing as any cleverly-designed psychological experiment. Just don’t point that thing at me — I’m not sure I’d want to see what I look like when looking at myself.