Labyrinths and patterns

In a description of hyperphotography, (Described in chapter 8 , ‘Toward Hyperphotography’ in Batchen, Geoffrey, et al.  ‘Picturing atrocity: photography in crisis.’ Picturing atrocity: photography in crisis, Reaktion Books, London, 2012, this chapter describes a fascinating angle on the changes taking place from analogue to digital photography) I read that a digital photograph can be read as a map of squares……able to serves a pathway elsewhere……slicing the world into segments. I selected a photograph at random to experiment with along these lines.

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I then drew grids on a piece of acetate and layered these to the photograph.


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Square grid

The square grid looked too regimented for me and so I tried drawing the jigsaw grid onto the original, cutting out the pieces and pasting them onto a white sheet of paper, creating small negative spaces.

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Jigsaw grid

This was much more interesting and has the appearance of ambiguity in that there are two narratives going on simultaneously; the main subject is clearly discernible and the ‘jigsaw ‘ pathway in white presents a different story. It could be that the scene is being looked at through a wrought iron barrier, it could be a stained glass window or a painting. The viewer is kept at a distance and at the same time being invited in. I sketched the negative spaces and wrote in the words that came to mind while doing this.

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What surprised me then is that the resulting sketch looked like a print of tree roots that I had previously done in Printmaking.

Tree root print

Having just read Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’, I could see the labyrinthine patterns emerging and went on to look at similar patterns in Nature, which is the main theme that I want to follow. Spirals were a major source of patterns.


I have previously investigated the Fibonacci sequence but was surprised to discover how many of these patterns conformed. The fingerprint image was so much like a labyrinth that I investigated the subject. There are two major types; the single path, unicursal and the branching, multicursal patterns.  Broadly speaking, the idea of a labyrinth is that as you begin to walk it, you take with you any problems that you want to resolve. When you reach the centre, you are at a meeting point with redemption and on the way back, you apply this resolution and exit refreshed and inspired. This has been used in many different areas, such as prisons, mental health institutions and hospitals, and also taken up by New Agers who have added a variety of mystical interpretations.


Labyrinths in history

My next step was to look more closely at the connection of the fingerprint to the labyrinth.  This resonates with Eco’s semiotic emphasis, the patterns in the print signifying an unending pattern that has no beginning or end and is a mystery.



Study for thumbprint labyrinth
Thumbprint copy
First crop and enlargement
Thumbprint 2copy
Second enlargement
Thumbprint greyscale
Greyscale for tone and clarity

There is a distinct link from here to spiders’ webs, themselves a labyrinth, especially difficult to exit for a fly!

As yet, I have no idea where this is all going. One area seems to lead onto another and I cannot see the direction clearly. I am content just now to reiterate Eco’s statement that ‘I doubt the world has an order. I am consoled to discover, if not an order, at least a series of connections in small areas of the world.’ This also fits well with my desire to investigate Foucault’s ‘little narratives ‘ and to uncover some of the wonders that are here for us to enjoy. Eco also says ‘…the beauty of the cosmos derives not only from unity in variety but also from variety in unity.’ and ‘solving a mystery is not the same as deducing from first principles. Nor does it amount simply to collecting a number of particular data from which to infer a general law. It means, rather, facing one or two or three  particular data apparently with nothing in common, and trying to imagine whether they could represent so many instances of a general law you don’t yet know, and which has never been pronounced.’ I am happy with this journey.


 Eco, U. and Weaver, W. (1984). The name of the rose. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall.







Author: Patricia Howe OCA 509589

I am a (very) mature student from a medical and teaching background. Beginning Level 2, I have elected to follow a Photography and Printmaking pathway combined in a Creative Arts degree. I had found Photography too limiting creatively and was not finding a voice of my own. Printmaking has helped me to release the expression I felt was eluding me, though the journey to change to Creative Arts was a difficult one as I  had only 14 weeks to complete the mandatory unit, having already completed Art of Photography, Context and Narrative and Printmaking 1. I needed to work full time on it, helped by excellent guidance from my tutor. I  have now submitted for the November 2017 Assessment and am awaiting results. Level 1 taught me a lot. I found that my approach to studying had been too cavalier, assuming that I knew more than I did. By the time I reached the end, I had discovered the pleasure of new discovery through research and had embarked on learning the skill of critical debate, which I enjoy as the philosophical approach interests me. We now have a lively and thriving South West Group meeting monthly and this has done much to dispel the loneliness of distance learning.  I am able to devote regular time to studying most weeks and I look forward to DIgital Imaging and Culture as I have experimented with this in the past and anticipate a learning curve that I will enjoy.

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