Self-Repeat: Photographers Explain Their Own Repetitions

Images by Peter Kool


I’m always fascinated by repeated themes across images, whether they’re taken by different photographers or also within the work of a single artist. It’s always a pleasure to put these photos side by side and wonder why the photographer returned to this particular subject.  It’s often the line we are looking for, between crafting our personal signature and repeating a similar trick.

I’m not here to judge and I most certainly don’t have the answers, as I’m also struggling with this exact issue. Sometimes I get bored with my own work when making another image with a single person or animal doing something strange, but on the other hand I’m happy if someone says that it’s a typical Julie image. So learning from other photographers, I hope we can all become more conscious about certain returning elements in their and our own photography.


Efi Longinou

Taken in 2018
Taken in 2017


Collection of blue sky images taken by Efi


One thing that impresses me as an Athenian living in Berlin, is the different cityscape. In contrast to Athens, the skyscrapers are very present in Berlin. On the other hand, Berlin skies are rarely completely blue, but when they are, its blue is unlike anything I have seen before. One person in front of that background feels like a lonely giant.

To photograph what now became a topic, started subconsciously. The repetition is part of the work in progress. I always take several photos of the same topic but different subjects. Then after some photos, the topic becomes conscious and I follow that path clearly until it feels complete for me. To see all the photos together at the end is interesting because I can follow the progress as a photographer during the years. And finally to choose one or two good photos that I like.”

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Jonathan Higbee

Taken in 2018
Taken in 2017
“There are a few more images in my personal archives that feature this aesthetic trick, and I was conscious of my proclivity for this creative device even before you asked me to write my thoughts on them. Though I’m conscious of my interest in subjects appearing to radiate wild colourful geometry from their heads, I’m still drawn to these types of scenes subconsciously in the moment, never deliberately. On the surface there’s that bold yet simple background that always captures my eye and has me pause in the street to observe the scene. It’s admittedly like candy, lacking any nutrition and apparently existing just to give my brain a rush of dopamine. But once I come down from the sugar high I regain the ability to pay attention to the lively present moment that has no need or reliance upon the extravagant background. As always, if the scene I’m observing has potential and makes my gut sink in the way that only a New York moment can, I hang out and photograph, never with the intention of adding to my collection of colourful radiating superhuman images.”


“So, though — in truth — seeing the images isolated and married together makes that little voice that has permanent residency in my head scream out “hack” for the first few seconds, it doesn’t take long for the little details that make them distinct stories to reveal themselves. I usually avoid sharing my opinion about the meaning of my work to keep the work as open to subjective interpretation as possible, but on a general level, one shot reminds me of the complicated relationship two young brothers share with their mother caught in the middle. It’s dramatic, and the details reinforce the narrative once you dig deeper. The other image feels more light hearted, sci-fi even. Upon a closer look, the details in this scene trigger my unshakable guilt over my addiction to my iPhone. It brings up personal anxieties about missing out on all the life around me whenever my iPhone steals my attention off to worlds of fantasy and unreality. Like some of the work in my new book Coincidences (which includes the first photo here), these two shots read as flamboyant with a passing glance yet each begs the viewer to take them in for a minute or two to figure out what the hell is going on — an eternity to spend with photography in the age of scrolling Instagram feeds and visual pollution! It doesn’t take long for the viewer to peel back the layers and let the image tell them their stories, each one distinct despite visual similarities. No shame: I’m a sucker for an unforgettable pop song and I’m a sucker for aesthetic devices that immediately grab my visual interest, both of which often have nothing to offer than a cheap and fleeting feel-good sensation. But I try my best to produce work that offers something more nutritious if given the time, even if at first glance the work sometimes appears to repeat hooks I’ve employed before.”


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Jeffrey de Keyser

Taken in 2017
Taken in 2019


“Both photos are part of my ongoing experimental black and white project ‘Trauma’, loosely based on and inspired by the surreal masterpiece ‘Un Chien Andalou’ by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. The film is a cinematic exercise in free association, composed of seemingly random dream sequences, packed with emotions hiding in the darkest corners of our minds. The two photos do not refer to a particular scene in the film, but are my personal take on the themes (desire, fear, expectation), features (confusion, dislocation of time and space), symbols and visuals (the wide-eyed girl, the building with apparently endless rooms) behind it. The first photo was taken in Bonn, Germany in 2017, the second one in Bruges, Belgium in 2019.”

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Dimitris Makrygiannakis

Taken in 2014
Taken in 2015

“Both photos are taken in Barcelona. It was a period in which I discovered this opportunity of heads being together. Barcelona is a very lively place and when looking carefully you can find many similar photos.

Actually there are more than those 2 photos that I have in my archive, and that where taken in that same period of having this little obsession, that lasted about 2 years.

In the first photo, I like how the bringing together of the old man and woman makes them related, even if it is not sure they had some interaction indeed. His coming out for her with his stressed look gives her some power over him to my mind. In the second photo, I just like how the head of the closest person is nicely framed inside the distant one and how the look of the latter makes some sense of interaction between them.

So I guess it is that interaction feeling that connects the two photos, besides the obvious trick. This says that I once had this trick in my photographic style, right now this feels like another life I had as a photographer. But who knows, I might shoot something similar again if there is something interesting I identify in such a scene.”

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Peter Kool

Taken in 2017
Taken in 2019

“Both photos are taken with the same person, in about the same place, on the same day of the week and around the same time of day, but on a different date. I think the gentleman goes to church every Sunday morning, because that’s when I often see him and his path leads to a house of God. I wouldn’t have bothered him for a second photo, until I saw the bag on his back; somehow connecting with the two boxes in the street. So I took the liberty to take this second shot.”

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Francesco Sembolini

Taken in 2017
Taken in 2019


“Usually, when I think that a photograph can be good, I make it. Many photographs might look similar but they will never be the same and the meaning and emotion will be different, most of the time. It is not a prerogative of just street photography but of all photography.

My two photographs in question, for example, give me different sensations. The sense of crushing of the two subjects is different and on the first, in my opinion much more powerful, the optical illusion works much better because of the sky color. It is normal that when the scene of the second image appeared, I immediately thought of the first, but the different position of the subject made me think that I was not replicating, but simply I was inspired by myself. The minimal and clean composition of the two images is undoubtedly another factor of similarity and this, for my style, is the most recognisable point.”

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Rammy Narula

Taken in 2017
Taken in 2019

“I try to see all the photographs I make as practice. They’re not end products, but only part of the process. The process of looking, learning, evolving. So in a way I suppose the second picture wouldn’t have existed without the first, and though they may feel quite similar, one created the possibility of seeing the other. In the end, admittedly and undeniably, self repeating could be viewed either as a sign of staying too much in the comfort zone if the photographs are very similar, or a way of evolving, if they somehow feel like they solidify a vision.”

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© All the pictures in this post are copyrighted. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.

by Julie Hrudová, founder of StreetRepeat


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