Week #28: Repetition

To be shot and submitted between Sunday, July 5 and Sunday, July 12 (noon, Eastern)

“Repetition opens doors, you know?”
~ Tim Lucas

Whether seeing faces in clouds or vast intergalactic conspiracy theories – as humans, we’ve been conditioned to spot patterns all around us, even where none exist. Scientists call it “Patternicity” which is a pretty cool word. It’s actually still one of the tasks at which brains outperform computers. In fact, Futurist Ray Kurzweil famously linked the human capacity for pattern recognition to the very basis of human intelligence and insight.

Of all the myriad forms of pattern in our world, the very first one we begin to recognize as children is repetition. There’s something about the ordered, disciplined, calm confidence of repetition that soothes our need for structure in a chaotic world.

Photographically speaking, repetition serves as an excellent visual motif. It taps into the viewer’s primal appreciation for order, and delights our inner child with simple elegance.

In fact, you can really maximize the visual interest of your photograph by turning that “simple elegance” on its head. One of the oldest tricks in photography is to find a natural repeating pattern, but then include a single detail that interrupts that pattern – like the missing picket in Sarah’s photo, here. By disrupting the pattern, you call even greater attention to its existence. (Kind of trippy, right? You emphasize it by degrading it!)

As you search for repetitive patterns to photograph, consider “rhythm” as well. How are the repeating elements spaced? Is there a natural “beat” to their placement?

Schedule yourself a jaunty photowalk around your neighborhood and see what repetition you can find! You may be surprised to identify it in even the unlikeliest of places, right in front of you.

You may be surprised to identify it in even the unlikeliest of places, right in front of you.

Tips and Tuts for this week:

  • Remember, for extra oomph: set the pattern, and then break it!
  • Fill the frame! Step in close and have the pattern fill the frame of your viewfinder, and image. This will make the image “about” the pattern itself, rather than it being about your finding a pattern and pointing it out (does that distinction make sense?). So cut out the surrounding clutter, just focus out on the repeating elements themselves.
  • Other things to remember: color, balance, structure, and of course – composition
Looking for more inspiration? Check out our Repetition Album from 2012 and, as always, the Google. Also derive inspiration from these 8 TED talks about pattern!

Extra Credit: 2+ Repeaters

For extra credit, find and capture multiple repeating elements within the same scene. It might be trickier than it sounds! Try to find various patterns that work together to enrich one another. Feel free to design your scene with household items, or discover naturally occurring repeateatears in the world around you! (Hint: look for shadows, look at nature, look at manmade structures. Look at everything!)

Remember, it is not necessary to work in this Extra Credit piece. It’s extra credit!

Have a challenge idea for 2016?