Unexpected ‘Jackson Pollock’ makes me a convert

No, I didn’t find a Jackson Pollock at a yard sale. Don’t I wish! But, I did find a ‘Jackson Pollock’ in my camera, which led to a new appreciation for the coveted drip paintings.

A month ago, I was enjoying a Sunday afternoon on a walking trail, admiring the fall scenery and taking photos left and right, up and down, mostly for the sheer pleasure of hearing the shutter snap, willing to be surprised by the results. Ah, the freedom of digital photography.

After the walk, while reviewing the results of my photo session, I noticed that in some of the shots, the web of intertwined branches and leaves created familiar patterns. “It’s a Jackson Pollock!” I exclaimed, surprised and amused.

To see if I was right, I googled Pollock’s paintings and compared them to my pictures. There was definitely a degree of resemblance between the nature’s designs in my images and Pollock’s drip paintings, even if just in an abstract sort of way.

My autumn shots vs. Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings
Unexpected "Jackson Pollock" 1

Photos by Violette Stepaniuk

Click to enlarge:

Unexpected "Jackson Pollock" 2
Unexpected "Jackson Pollock" 3
Unexpected "Jackson Pollock" 4
Street photography vs. Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings

But, that’s not all. While looking for images of Pollock’s famous compositions, I came across an interesting article titled “WTF Does Jackson Pollock Have To with Street Photography?” (title as posted by the author) by a New York City street photographer and photojournalist Jonathan Auch.

In his article, Auch dispenses street photography tips based on Pollock’s quotes about his approach and methodology. Some of the photographer’s suggestions describe my mindset while on my walk: “try not to think so much and turn your mind off”, “let go and follow your gut”, and “let your mind wander and guide your eye.”

As interesting as the photographer’s suggestions and Pollock’s quotes are, it is the illustrations that attracted me to this article. Auch paired five street photographs by different photographers with five of Pollock’s drip paintings, like in the example on the right.

You can see the other four pairings on Auch’s website. The similarities are uncanny.


Via jonathanauch.com

In his article “WTF Does Jackson Pollock Have to with Street Photography?” Jonathan Auch compares Jackson Pollock’s 1947 painting Cathedral to Henri Cartier Bresson’s photograph Gandhi’s Funeral, Delhi, India, 1948.

Jackson Pollock and fractals

Still, that’s not all. Auch’s article reminded me of a book I read last year that mentioned something about Pollock’s drip painting technique and fractals, shapes of repeating patterns in which small sections look the same, or almost the same, as the whole. I couldn’t recall the title or author of the book, so I googled again. Instead of the book, I found a video in which an artist and physicist Richard Taylor explains the fractal property in Pollock’s works, and uses trees as an example of fractals.

Full circle

So, here I come full circle: trees to Pollock to street photography to fractals and back to trees. It appears that fractals are the link between nature’s and Pollock’s designs, and what makes Pollock’s paintings so alluring. Real or imaginary these connections have made me a Jackson Pollock convert, even if my appreciation of his artistic chaos is still somewhat intuitive.

Ps. I have to share another link in this chain of synchronicity. Just after I gave up on finding the book title, I was processing photos for this post and watching a documentary on creativity on TVO. One of the scientists being interviewed referred to some solution as being “elegant”. Bingo! That’s the word I was looking for. I googled again and I found the book: In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew E. May.

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