Patterns Amongst Chaos (And The Comfort They Bring)

As a photographer, one tends to look more closely than perhaps the average person, and see beauty in what many would overlook. 

Something I’ve realised as I’ve grown older is that parts of my personality make up that seem incongruous and incompatible are actually closely intertwined, and different forms of the same root.

Take, for example, numbers, poetry, dance and photography.

I love all four, but some would have you believe that if you have a strong interest in one of these areas, you won’t (or can’t) in the others, they’re too different.

But what they all have in common for me is that they’re based in patterns.

Simple number patterns like times tables, the rhyming patterns of a poem, the key steps and rhythms of a dance that may look spontaneous on the surface but are rooted in returning to the same patterns over and over, and finding shapes and arrangements that are beautiful to the eye in a photograph.

All of these begin with beautiful patterns that repeat in some form – within a single number sequence or poem or dance or photograph, or across a set or series of them.

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What this seeking and appreciation of patterns also helps me with, is finding some kind of order among chaos. 

Even if the patterns aren’t so obvious at first – like a sequence of prime numbers or a poem following an unconventional rhyming structure – they still create some loose kind of order, some way to string elements together in a connective sequence.

A way to make some kind of sense of the disorder and disarray today’s world seems filled with.

And this is why I find such comfort in them all, and other related, even simpler forms, like the seven spokes of the wheels of our car, or the repeating sequence of flowers on our living room blinds, or the interlocking teeth of the chunky zip of my computer bag here next to me.

Without being able to find these tiny iterations of order, perhaps I would feel all was lost, and that there was nothing to anchor my logic, and perhaps my sanity, to.

I can’t imagine a life without seeking and studying the patterns all around us, and those we create ourselves, with photography, poetry, dance and a thousand other forms.

How about you? Do you look for patterns, in your photography and other areas of your life? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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15 thoughts on “Patterns Amongst Chaos (And The Comfort They Bring)”

  1. Everything is patterns, down to the sub-atomic level. The chaos that is the universe is simply a pattern too complex for us to see. In essence it’s impossible to not look for patterns, but it’s possible not to recognize them as such.

  2. I not only find them but have to try to stop noticing them! I am not sure if the extreme is pareidolia, something that is natural in me to see. Musical patterns are beautiful, I follow poets and I should study about technique in poetry, to notice the different symmetries, patterns and even numbers of syllables with which they structure their poems.

    1. Francis, I’ve never heard of pareidolia, that’s fascinating.

      Music was so obvious I overlooked it entirely! Yes all kinds of music have repeated patterns and rhythms. I generally listen to ambient music these days, but am still very intrigued by any kind of pop music that has almost hypnotic layers of rhythm, like Abba, early Michael Jackson, early Prodigy and so on. Love how they build the layers out of tiny rhythmic loops, like making a beautiful place out of simple Lego bricks.

      I used to write a great deal of haiku, and almost always stuck with the 5-7-5 syllable, three line structure. I wrote thousands, I love them!

      1. “Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.” (Source: Wikipedia) NASA explains that the Face on Mars surface (In the Cydonia region), is an example of pareidolia. I suspect is a legacy of times as hunters, when detecting a human or animal face would be useful to survive. Haikus are so beautiful, I admire so much Bashō, they can light up the understanding about what other feels and experiences.
        About music with patterns I like very much the album Abandoned Cities by Haushka. Each song mirrors a bit the city from which it takes its title (here is one song https://youtu.be/23lhFxX__kg )

      2. Would this also be similar to seeing a mirage in the desert? Or does there have to be some kind of similarity in a pattern for us to latch on to?

        Haiku is really how I got into photography. I started decades ago as a poet, which evolved almost exclusively into haiku, which I then realised was essentially the same as taking a photo of a scene. Just with words, instead of a picture.

        Just checking out Haushka on Spotify…

      3. That’s a really interesting post! I think the closest I come to this phenomenon is usually with clouds, see faces, animals, and so on, usually very easily. It is fascinating how the human brain seeks so hard for the familiar and reassuring that it almost conjures it up from from nothing.

        I started looking around your blog but many of the images links seem broken? And the last post looks like it was from early 2017. Do you blog somewhere else now?

      4. Thank you, Dan. Happy you found it interesting. About the image links I used to post everything from Flickr to save storage, I even made a tutorial post to help other WordPress persons but, alas, I had to replace the Flickr photos with smaller versions, as they were thousands of photos maybe I left in some cases the link to the original account (of course I say it respectfully and understanding the needed limit of Flickr for free accounts, I think it was good so Flickr could have more quality and not being just a back up service when it offered limitless storage) I cannot post because the equipment I got along the years was stolen from me, I got in debt to get new equipment to work and I am working to pay it. I have not a calibrated screen, or a functioning camera, and the time given to work has not giving me time to have good experiences to tell. My blog was a kind of personal diary and the more readers I have somehow makes it harder to share negative things as they could be seen as victimhood or for solidarity could cause stress to the friends I made there. I hope to return of course, but meanwhile I enjoy so much reading. Good weekend, Dan : )

  3. I’m constantly looking for patterns when I’m restoring a photo – there are so many, and I have to differentiate them so that I can see each photo’s ‘reality’. However, I’m not actually very good at seeing the way things come together (I’ve some spatial perception problems) and in fact have been struggling with the one I’ve been doing the last few days, because I can’t get what I’m looking at to ‘hang together’. It’s a child’s toy pull-cart, but sometimes the parts aren’t holding together. I’ll get it eventually… (well, I hope I will). So I know what you mean about needing patterns to order the chaos.

    1. Yes I can imagine there are many patterns to decipher like a puzzle, as you shift from a monochrome image to colour. And you will likely never know what the actual colours were in that moment, so you’re piecing it together based on experience and knowledge and research, and I expect a kind of intuition that just tells you when it looks “right”.

      How do you choose which part of a photograph to add colour to first, or does it vary with different photos?

      1. I usually start with the background and objects other than people, partly to isolate the people and help me concentrate on the foreground, but also because if I do the people first, I tend to lose interest in the rest of it!

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