Camera Work: Fractals and Mandalas

Fractal Mandala

Camera Work: Fractals and Mandalas.

In 1987, my whole visual world turned upside down and inside out. Simultaneously and sequentially. I discovered Fractals, when I became aware of a book by James Gleick “Chaos: The Making of a New Science”

What is a fractal? The term was coined by Benoit Mandelbrot, a mathematician for IBM in his groundbreaking work culminating with the publication of “The Fractal Geometry of Nature” 1977. Mandelbrot used the term “fractal” as it derived from the Latin word “fractus”, defined as broken or shattered glass.

I spent the next few years curled up with subject matter and started to write. I had no computer, but I did have an ancient computer typewriter called Magnevox VideoWriter which I got from my daughter after her graduation from OSU. It used a proprietary software, saving documents on a floppy disk which only could be read from that machine, which, of course, failed during my writing spree. I managed to make hard copies of most of it but not all.

One of the outcomes was the realization that nature is fractal, the characteristics of which is self similarity at different scales. The classic example is the fern whose plant structure repeats itself as one looks closer, stating with the plant, going to the individual stem to the leaf and beyond. Mathematically, the fractal patterns are marvelous, starting, for instance, from the basic triangle repeating itself in greater complexity until one arrives at a snowflake.

A fractal is non-Eucidean, that is it cannot be mathematically defined using Euclidean geometry. It therefore exists between Euclidean dimensions; a fractal dimension does not have to be an integer.

All this became a revelation, no, more like an annunciation! I now had a name for the complexity with which I worked my images. I began to look for another way of working. After all, the photo does exist in Euclidean space; it is a rectangle. I first considered breaking up the edges, but abandoned that quickly. What I did was to re-evaluate how to find significant images when photographing. Instead of carefully looking for compositions a la Adams and Weston, I began to sweep the scene with the camera, allowing the eye to say “Stop”! and click the shutter. I even went so far as to set the camera on a tripod, sweep the space, expose, then kick the tripod enough to mess up the composition and try again. It worked. The before and after frames matched very well.
Fractal Trees

Many mathematical models emerged, including one called Cantor dust.

This is a similar concept, although a math friend did squirm a bit when I labeled it Cantor Dust.

Cantor Dust 2_2 sm shrp

Finally, another shape manifested itself called a Strange Attractor:!/portfolio/C0000llrNgXTzzc8/G0000G5Yk3cCtY0I/I0000y8heczxaGmU

But what of the lead in image? How does it qualify? This image is composed of an iteration of a single image by flipping, matching, flipping and matching again, then with each iteration a layer in Photoshop , messing with color and other parameters. The significant factor is self-similarity, which as defined in fractal sets, one will find at the center. Not mathematically perfect mind you but enough to be startling when it occurs.

Fractal Mandala center

This barely scratched the surface. I have my work included in a publication called “Fractals: The Patterns of Chaos” by John Briggs

It’s still available. I recommend it.

The Mandala concept came well after the exploration of Chaos. I did many of these, and the one here is probably the closest I have come to matching a mandala to fractal dimension.

Photos ©2015 Lawrence Hudetz All Rights Reserved.

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Lawrence Hudetz

Lawrence Hudetz