The October Challenge: Answer to Tony Cearns.

The October Challenge: Answer to Tony Cearns.


Two Ladies (1 of 1)

Tony, yes you definitely think too much. The October challenge should be pretty easy to grasp but it might indeed be a bit difficult to box.

In my eyes street photography has got very little to do with plain street documentation and needs an x factor to be successful.

Among the tricks that can be used is making distinctive repetitions of a theme or a form. In painting it is used all over and has been for centuries.

Here are the points I would make concerning this challenge:

1. Human beings in social context has to be the BEARING ELEMENT. Meaning you don’t shoot a building with repetitive windows with a small man in front. (See the guidelines for the group and thus for all challenges in the next 6 months).

2. The reference to OCCAM is relevant and important. Occam suggest that of more interpretations of a photograph the easier and the simpler will win. (The adaptation of Occam’s razor to street photography).

3. Definition is not narrow in the challenge but you must make sure that repetitions are the x factor of your shot. That which attracts IMMEDIATE perceptive attention.

4. Use the challenge photographs as a LANDMARK for what is wanted. The two cello players (in repetition) should be pretty obvious. I see them clearly and at first sight.

5. When you have established the main theme you can play around with minor repetitions like lamps on the wall, people lined up in the background, number of cello cases, or whatever you have got. But these work as ADDITIONAL information.

6. The challenge photograph with the twin sisters is a complex shot and comes rather rare. The reason you can take a shot like that is to know what you are looking for – consciously or unconsciously or both. By training you can INTERNALISE what you look for and scenes with striking repetitions, on Occam’s level, will come to you in stead of you seeking them out.

7. One of the best ways to recognise repetitions in photography and the effect they can have is looking at what others have done. HCB makes repetitions all the time but so does many others. You need to spend time STUDYING (street) photography.

8. If you don’t think your photographs is good enough, MOVE IN closer. (Capa).

9. If you need to explain what you are doing you are already in trouble. (As I definitely am here 🙂. Obviously the briefing has not been sharp enough. But that should not stop you from being creatively inventive 🙂.

10. You build complex by simple, not simple by complex. (Word of the day :-)).

Good day to all.

Best regards


About author

Knut Skjærven

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