I was thinking other day… and suddenly this clearly came to my thoughts: fractals are more like photographs than paintings. I’ll try to explain why I think that way.

Fractal images, besides a lot of different interpretations and meanings, are nothing but graphical representations of a certain formula. Pretty much like that algebra class you had in high school. Although it can be artistic and all that (despite some refuse to call fractal art an art but this is another subject), it doesn’t even start (sometimes) with a blank canvas like a painting. You don’t create anything fractal-ish in the sense of inventing it. These graphical representations were all there already.

Take any fractal formula, say for example the Mandelbrot. It has a few parameters, but let reduce them to 2, X and Y for the sake of better understanding. The resulting image of the combination of the values of parameters X and Y gives you a certain image, the graphical representation of the combination of these parameters. This combination always existed. It was just waiting for someone to “create” the fractal with these values in a fractal generator software and publish it as a JPEG. Pretty much like the picture of a landscape, for example. The landscape was always there, waiting to have its photo taken.

What is a photograph if not a graphical representation of a landscape or a particular object in a specific moment in time, in a certain (constant, sometimes) environment? Take a picture of a mountain. Then the next day, the mountain will still be there, at the same place, in the same coordinates/parameters. If you go there and place your camera in the same position, with the same conditions (parameters) as when you did a day before, chances are that you will get the same or a very close image to the previous image. This is even more correct if you’re taking for example a picture of say a fruit in a studio. You can move your camera a few milimeters away from the original point of the first photo, and it’s about the same as using let’s say values of 0.000001 and 0.000002 for a certain parameter in a fractal. They are “pictures” of a fractal taken in a different condition, but they still keep the same basic subject, the fractal “structure” so to speak, just like the mountain or the car or the apple is the same.

And what about the post-processing? If you take a picture of a model in a studio with a red light today and tomorrow you use the same model, in the same position, but with a green light… it’s the same as using a different color algorithm in a fractal.

A painting is a bit different, because it’s your own interpretation of something, it’s not something that “is there” waiting to be unravelled. Each artist has a different technique and a way to “translate” things to a painting in his own way, some like to make the paintings entirely abstract, some like to make accurate reproductions making it look like a photograph, and although people can add their “personal touches” to fractals, these are more like a camera lens or some other dark room effect added to the image than a real “personal” touch. But this doesn’t mean that fractal artists aren’t creative. I hope I could make myself clear.

The trick I guess is to find the “right side of the mountain”, the correct time of the day to take your picture. The same landscape might look boring today and tomorrow with a few natural “tweaks” (a word constantly used by fractal artists) it can become a masterpiece. Sometimes it’s a matter of luck, sometimes you have some inner voice telling you to explore a new combination/spot, whatever. What is important is what you can do with that – the final work.