Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Broken rhythms

click photo to enlarge
The man-made world is full of repeated forms. Look around and you'll see them where you are now. Perhaps it's a set of bookshelves, a stack of plates, a radiator grille, or the Venetian blinds on your window. Look outside and repetition will be there too in fences, gable ends, railway tracks, and rows of windows and doors. The rhythms that these repeated forms create are often attractive. However, they are frequently more appealing when something interferes with that rhythm; so much so that this device has become a photographic convention. A favourite photograph of mine shows nothing but a receding row of columns in Athens, with my wife stood between two of them breaking the rhythm of the uprights.

And its not just man-made objects. A memorable photograph that I recall seeing shows Muslim men at prayer. All are kneeling and bent over, with the exception of a small boy who is sitting up and looking round. Another example of this format that sticks in my memory is of English Guardsmen in their red uniforms and bearskin hats, in rank upon rank at a ceremonial occasion in London. Their perfect rows are broken by one soldier who has fainted and is laid prone, ignored by all around him!

So, on my photographic outings, when I see examples of this effect, I am sure to point my camera at it. Here is just such an instance. These flats in Southwark, London, have a concave wall covered in shiny purple/blue tiles. The windows are in rows, and the balconies in diagonal groups. What made this shot for me was the orange towel hanging out to dry. Here it jumps out at the viewer because it breaks the rhythm of the architecture, and adds a powerful spot of complementary colour to the image. The photograph would be so much the poorer for its absence.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen