The Academy 2016  / October Challenge: Visual Repetitions.

The Academy 2016 / October Challenge: Visual Repetitions.

Twin Sisters © Knut Skjærven.

Twin Sisters © Knut Skjærven.

I seem to come back to these words spoken by John Szarkowski in 1966.

“The first thing a photographer learned was that photography dealt with the actual; he had not only to accept this fact, but to treasure it: unless he did, photography would defeat him.

He learned that the world itself is an artist of incomparable inventiveness, and to recognize its best works and moments, to anticipate them, to clarify them and make them permanent, requires intelligence both acute and supply.”

Let these words stand as the introduction to New Street Agenda: The Academy 2016, that will run from October 2016 to March 2017. Both months included.

You will find background material for the monthly challenges at the sites mentioned at the end of this post. See Resources.

It is up to you how to use the resources but they will help you to understand the idea of New Street Agenda, and why it is so important to take a second look at what is out there before pressing the shutter on your camera.

And why a training ground is so important for street photography. Training is what The Academy is all about.

October Challenge: Repetitions.

Here is what you need to do: During October you will shoot and post 3 pictures where the use of visual repetitions is a dominant aspect of the photograph.

Take as many pictures you want but post only 3 during a month.

Only pictures taken in October should be posted. It is part of the challenge that your work should be fresh. All other posts will be removed.

Make sure the repetitive structure is distinct and easy for easy for all to see. If you need to explain things you are already in trouble.

The Example

I have included the photograph, Twin Sisters, Berlin 2013, as an example of how repetitions are used in a photograph.

In the example you find repetitions in:  a) Squares (The picture format is a square. There are repetitive squares within the shot as well: windows and contour around the musician); b) Cellos (The form of the cello is repeated 4 times. Both in the cellos and in the cello case); c) Lamps (The 2 lamps mirror each other); d) Musicians (The two musicians are in synchrony meaning that the twin sister do the same thing at the same time in the same way.)

You may say that in this photograph repetitions are overdone. In your trials you should not try to do the same because these scenes comes rather rare. Simpler will do very well.

In your pictures, however,  you need to make visual clear that you manage taking a street photographs where repetitions are a distinct element. In other words: people will have to be able to see it right away. They have to be recognisable first thing.

Repetitions are all out there. Waiting for you to pick them up.

Reason Why.

Street photography should not be a controlled, left brain activity as these challenges might suggest that it is.

I am sure that the best street photographs spring from instinct and not from formulas. However, along the way, I find it to be a good investment to know what the bus looks like before I try to board it.

If you have seen it once or twice you need not spend more time on it. This is the same thing that will happen when you train for instance the use of repetitions in street photography. After a while scene like this will jump into your camera without you even noticing it. That is how Twin Sisters came about anyway.

Ask any question.

Ask any relevant question you like. At any time. Ask your question as a comment to this post. Or post your question in the new Facebook group. Shoot and post your pictures during October 2016. At the end of the month you will have a new challenge.


If you want to participate in The Academy 2016, please go to the dedicated Facebook group: New Street Agenda: The Academy 2016. That is our work area.

Please take time to comment on the picture posted. Be active. That is the best way to secure comments on your pictures too.

Good luck.


New Street Agenda (2014); Barebones Communication (2007); Phenomenology and Photography (2010); Street Photographer’s Toolbox (2012). Or use any other source you find relevant.

John Szarkowski: The Photographers Eye, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 2009.

Posts in New Street Agenda: The Academy 2016 are tagged #newstreetagendatheacademy2016. Click the tag to see them all.

© Knut Skjærven
Copenhagen, September 28, 2016.

#knutskjaerven #knutskjaerven #newstreetagenda #streetphotography #theacademy #theacademy2016 #newstreetagendatheacademy2016

About author

Knut Skjærven

Knut Skjærven is a Norwegian photographer, writer and researcher working out of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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  1. Knut Skjærven October 18, 2016 at 11:30

    Critique to photo posted by Bryan Osborne RE, October 17, 2016:

    Let me go for it then.

    This is a well, and precisely composed image and would work well in most circumstance. Does it fit the October challenge? I am not sure.

    I say not sure because even if I can seek out the many repetitions in the shot, the three people closest to the camera takes away my attention to the repetitions.

    It is not enough to take a shot of a group of people in different layers and suggest that they are repetitions of each other. You need a creative handling beyond that.

    The idea in these challenges is that you take a picture where repetitions are obvious, instant and unhidden. It should be the first thing you register. If you need to explain things you are in trouble.

    Making a visual message two things are important: what you photograph and the way you photograph it. You need to take control of “the order or things” related to the task in question.

    That said, the image will pass.

    There are too many good intention in this shot. And the technical and overall composition is good too. Well done :-).


    October 18, 2016.

  2. Knut Skjærven October 10, 2016 at 22:54

    CRITIQUE TO PHOTO BY Kevin Lim, October 10, 2016:

    You set the standard pretty high with your first challenge shot.

    This is a very different picture and for everyone who can count there are also repetitive elements: Two mirrors, two times two people, four heads, and more.

    But there is also a lot of additional information that disturbs the repetitions. For instance the horizontal stretch of the picture and the food display on the left hand side.

    The overall impression is that you understand the idea of repetitions but lack the concentration of the theme that you so brilliant had in your first shot.

    I have to agree with Occam on this shot: The first thing that comes to mind here is not repetitions. There are too much irrelevant and unnecessary information.


  3. Knut Skjærven October 8, 2016 at 08:53

    Critique to photo posted by Alexandre Duarte, October 7, 2016:

    Knut Skjærven Hmm, this is a tricky one.

    These monthly challenges are like small clinical operations testing your ability to recognise and focus on a specific and rather narrow visual theme. This time: Repetition.

    The problem with these themes is that they will, to a lesser or larger extent, always be present in a photograph. That is why, in the briefing, I ask you to make them distinct for everybody to see right away.

    I could point to elements of repetition in this photograph. Like people, like lines and forms but I will not dig into that. Because the first thing I find in this fine photograph is an extraordinarily level of variation :-). A mixture of forms, shapes, colours, lines, light and shadow.

    Another thing: These critiques are not made to the photograph as such but only to the aspect of the photographs reflecting the challenge in question.

    Have a good evening :-).

    October 7, 2016.

    Link to the post on Facebook Group: New Street Agenda; The Academy 2016:

  4. Knut Skjærven October 8, 2016 at 08:50

    Critique to photo posted by Kevin Lim, October 6, 2016:

    Knut Skjærven: Hmm, what can I say.

    You have taken a prosaic briefing and made poetry out of it. This is a masterful photograph that silently and very cleverly demonstrates how the theme, repetitions, can be executed.

    People, tiles, windows, stairways, ticked machines, lights and shadows. I don’t need to destroy the impression by using more words on it. Everthing here speaks for itself.

    This is just an amazing photograph. So incredible well done. I would not change a single pixel in it :-).


    October 6, 2016.

    Link to the post on Facebook Group: New Street Agenda; The Academy 2016:

  5. Knut Skjærven October 8, 2016 at 08:46

    Critique to photo posted by Tony Cearns, October 6, 2016

    Knut Skjærven: I enjoy this, Tony Cearns.

    You have clearly got the October message. You execute great visual control here. There are repetitions both in the poles in the street and in the squares and rectangles in the background wall. Add the overall line structures.

    I particularly enjoy that both men have an arm bent towards their heads. A repetitive gesture.

    You have got the concept right and you serve a solution in an easily perceivable manner. Occam would have liked this..

    Well done. Feel free to take the rest of the month off :-). Good day from up north.

    One last remark of a more general character: If you know how to shoot for an idea, you will also know how not to shoot for an idea. You are rewarded double up :-).

    October 6, 2016.

    Link to the post on Facebook Group: New Street Agenda; The Academy 2016:

  6. Knut Skjærven October 8, 2016 at 08:40

    Critique to photo posted by Alexander Merc, October 5, 2016:

    Knut Skjærven: Thank you, Alexander Merc, for this submission. I will give you credit for posting this first picture.

    You may have noticed that the specifics in the briefing have been set rather loosely. The idea behind that is that you as the photographer should have the opportunity to show your creative inventiveness in your photographs.

    Yes, I ses the bikes. Both the ones standing and the ones riding but it is only though inference that I know that these biles are of “the same gender” so to speak.

    Repetition has also something to do with similarity in size or even synchrony and in general of how things are ordered and presented. What I basically see is a row of bicycles in a somewhat cluttered photograph. Repetition alright but without that effect that makes you burst with impression :-).

    The dominant move in this shot is not repetition but image direction. The strong diagonal move disturbs my focus on repetition. For me the diagonal are in charge of this picture. By operating with two competing themes (actually gestalt factors) you have given yourself a hard task.

    I am not asking for excellent shooting in this October challenge. As you know “luck comes later”. But I am asking for a clear way so that I fast-and-frugal can say: mission completed.

    I would like to have been surprised thinking how great the October challenge was handled in this shot but I am afraid that that feeling escapes me.

    Anyway, thanks for this first submission. Highly appreciated :-). You have to shots to go. Looking forward to them both.

    October 5, 2016.

    Link to the post on Facebook Group: New Street Agenda; The Academy 2016:

  7. Knut Skjærven October 5, 2016 at 09:21


    Ah, this morning the first picture has been posted to New Street Agenda: The Academy 2016. The first CRITIQUE is in too. Thank you Alexander Merc.

    Open the link below to go there.



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