Sunday, January 20, 2013

Repetition and photography

click photo to enlarge
"My greatest fear: repetition"
Max Frisch (1911-1991), Swiss author and critic

I find it hard to understand the point that Max Frisch was making when he wrote the remark quoted above. If it's the simple fear of repeating oneself inadvertently, or even knowingly because the creative juices have stopped flowing, then fair enough. But that makes it such an obvious point that it's hardly worth the utterance. The fact is that much art, whether writing, visual or musical, depends on varying a theme, and themes inevitably involve an element of repetition. This is a subject that I touched on in my 2011 post, "Mining the seam", so I won't elaborate here. However, what I will say is that this desire to avoid "repetition" is something that seems to afflict photographers rather more than some other visual artists. Painters have no hesitation in returning to a subject repeatedly - see Monet and Rouen Cathedral, Cezanne and Mont Saint Victoire or Diego Rivera and the calla lily flower. Most, though certainly not all, musicians tend to work within a tightly defined genre and instrumentation. But photographers, well, they too often forgo the learning and refining that repetition can offer, and search instead for ever new subjects and approaches.

I repeatedly take photographs of the water lily leaves in our pond because they offer interest and difference across the year. The church in the village of Bicker is another subject that I photograph regularly. Why, you might wonder? Well, not only is it conveniently located for me, but it is a particularly fine building in a setting that, like those water lily leaves, changes with the time of day, the weather and the seasons. I've photographed it in fog, summer, and snow more than a few times (see here, here, here and here).That being the case, you might wonder what mileage there is in another photograph of the church on a snowy morning: in self-imposed repetition.

In fact, I've set myself the task of documenting this church. I'm looking for variations determined by the weather, the time of day, the season, the viewpoint, the lens, the processing, and any other variable that I can introduce into my photography. On this occasion the warm note of the early morning sunlight contrasting with the cold blue/white of the light covering of snow and the hoar frost on the trees offered something different. So too did the slightly more distant viewpoint that introduced the veil of branches across the top of the image. There's more mining of this seam yet to be done!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On