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Patterns

Published by Catherine Nguyen

“Trends, reoccurring events, and circumstances. These are common ways we see patterns. Patterns are the laws of nature and life that present themselves in all disciplines of life — from the smallest microorganism to macrocosm. They manage the systems by which our universe operates. While patterns aren’t always apparent, they are continuous and autonomous.” — TEDx VCU

I am surrounded by patterns. I choose to embrace some and disregard others, and my work as an interior and exterior photographer has taught me to recognize the patterns in my life and learn from them where I can.

When I lived in Manhattan in my 20s, I would notice the apartment lights flicker on around me as dusk fell. Mesmerized, I would stare at the buildings and dream about their interiors. I wasn’t in awe of the people as much as I was the spaces in which they lived. Residents of the East and West Villages tend to be affluent and take great care with the design and presentation of their homes, and I fell in love with the process behind their art. Fittingly, this pattern of behavior led me to a career that immerses me in patterns daily. Now, people invite me into their homes to capture the very light that has always fascinated me.

You can define “patterns” as “chains of behavior.” For example, we often repeat the patterns our parents set forth, only changing them when we come into our own. I grew up in a household where I was expected to become a professional of some sort, such as a lawyer or doctor. My father wanted to make sure I received an education that would support that type of position. As I became my own person, though, I changed that pattern and veered towards an artistic field instead. Yet I held on to and even cultivated my pattern of working hard and never letting opportunities pass me by.

As I became an adult, I began to recognize patterns in everything I did, from my hobbies and interests to the things that captured my attention and drew me in. I am drawn towards physical interaction between myself and my loved ones: Holding my niece's hand while walking down the street or letting my nephews hold my arm while I pull them around the pool to teach them how to swim.  I am drawn towards color and elegance and art, and I see the way these things tied into both my personal and professional patterns. 

When I shoot, I definitely work according to patterns. I work toward an overall shot of the room, considering focal points such as a fireplace or a piece of art, and I try to make sure that the styling highlights those essential features to give them visibility.

Another of my patterns is that I try to consider the way different objects will play off one another.  I generally like odd-numbered groupings where I can layer elements in order of height and consider how physical patterns interact to construct a beautiful image. Patterns can also be defined as “repeated decorative design”, and you’ll often find patterns arranged in layers. You start with a base, then add your fabrics, your accessories, and your art, weaving patterns into each of those layers simultaneously. My job is to make sure that the light I use or the way that I crop a photo directs the viewer to experience the image in a certain way. When I enter a space for a shoot, my eye is immediately drawn to the different patterns in color, texture, and shapes. In the space of seconds, I process myriad ideas with regards to placement and lighting, determining how those components will interact with the overall patterns and create balance. For example, it’s imperative to balance a heavy pattern by either isolating it or making it the sole focal point, giving it some white space or playing it against a softer pattern. The eye naturally wants rest, and I have found that there is a point of no return.  With that said, I have also shot rooms covered floor-to-ceiling in patterns, from the drapes to the linens, and it works.  There are no hard and fast rules, but how you finish off your masterpiece is key. It is art, and it is personal.

Want to learn more about the patterns in your life? Contact me for more information on how I can capture the patterns in your interior and exterior spaces.