In the new series called Self-Repeat I focus on self-repetition by individual photographers. It’s something we all come across in the proces of shaping our personal signature in photography. I’ve asked the photographers about two similar images that they took at different points in time, to learn why they recreated the same type of image and what it can tell us about their work in general.
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.
“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.”
Jeffrey de Keyser
“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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“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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“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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“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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“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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