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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