One of my key tasks when in the Turks and Caicos islands was to complete exercise 21 where we are asked to seek our images that use either rhythm or pattern. As discussed earlier in my blog I was seeking to adopt a documentary approach to TCI and endeavour to capture the sprit of the place without resorting to too many clichéd Caribbean travel photographs. The rhythm and pattern exercise was an excellent additional idea to have in my head.
Pattern, as Freeman* tells us, is repetition within an area whilst pattern is directional repetition. Both design elements are used to engage the view by encouraging them to look at an image in a particular way. Rhythm will lead the eye in a prescribed way across the forms and spaces that flow across, or up and down, the composition. Pattern is less prescriptive and suggests that the eye roams around the frame exploring the repetition. Both are powerful tools to draw the viewer into an image and, for many of us, both pattern and rhythm are reassuring elements as they suggest organisation and structure even when neither really exist. Because rhythm is the directional repetition of pattern there will always be pattern within an image that is relying on rhythm.
Fig 2, in my mind, is rhythmic. The lines of birds were startled by me when I tried to photograph the group at rest in an old salt pond in Grand Turk. I had time for one shot as they moved to another part of the pond and as a result this was taken with a comparatively slow shutter speed which has not frozen the movement of all the wings. This slight blur has meant that each element of the pattern flows into the next and the top line have formed a rhythm across the image. I processed this with a green filter to reduce the definition in the background and then I emphasised the contrast of the birds to make the pattern and rhythm more distinct.
Fig 3 and fig 4 are examples of pattern. Near to where we were staying there was a large shallow pond with a narrow band of mangroves on one bank. I was intrigued by hundreds of mangrove shoots that were emerging from the mud which was covered in a crust of mossy growth. Both these angles enable us to see patterns in the mud, the shoots and the shadows.
Fig 5, 6 (and fig 1) are part of a series of images where I used a similar composition on different walls. I was interested in the different textures, colours amount of weathering and liked the composition with part of a window to the right. Fig 5 has a rhythmic flow across the image with the rhythm partially broken by the window shutter. In contrast the strange pink cement in fig. 6 forms a pattern with the stone of the wall.
Fig. 7 and 8 are very simple patterns with little or no variation. Fig 8 being a tight crop of fig 7. I like the straight forward graphic design of these images. The tight crop appeals a little more than the original because the strange piece of metal comes more into the image and breaks up the pattern.
Fig 9 is a detail from the same historic house in Grand Turk as figures 7 and 8. the pattern of the fence posts repeats across the image and thereby becomes a rhythm. As well as the rhythm I like the three strong shapes formed by the sky, the tree and the fence. A simple composition but that captures the place for me quite well.
Fig 10 is an example of pattern. The shadow at the bottom left spoils this image but I am keeping it here because it is a straight forward pattern.
In fig 11 there is pattern in the detail of the contrasting sunlight and shadows and rhythm in the spaces through which we can see the sea and the ship. This ruin was one of many that I found in Turks and Caicos and they became a recurring theme of my photos. I especially liked this image as the classic caribbean view is from inside a ruined building. The huge cruise shop which I followed down the coast and photographed at anchor makes an additional contrasting point against the storm damaged shell.
My final rhythm image is of Front Street on Grand Turk where the local men were resting in the shade of a few small trees. There is a rhythmic flow across the different height trees and the men sitting beneath them.
*Freeman, Michael (2007), The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes, The Ilex Press.