Beauty and Symmetry

A dozen or more years ago, I watched an interesting show on Discovery or National Geographic or some such channel; it was about beauty. Basically, they were trying to come up with a scientific explanation for why certain things (or more specifically, people) are more beautiful than others. Their conclusion was that the single biggest factor in determining beauty was symmetry.

Paul Graham, in his classic essay Taste for Makers, says

“Good design uses symmetry. I think symmetry may just be one way to achieve simplicity, but it’s important enough to be mentioned on its own. Nature uses it a lot, which is a good sign.”

Beauty in Symmetry: Reflections at Big Bear Lake, 2006.

Beauty in Symmetry: Reflections at Big Bear Lake, 2006.

He goes on to say,

“The danger of symmetry, and repetition especially, is that it can be used as a substitute for thought.”

…which is something I realize whenever the water was low at Big Bear Lake.  My kayak-based photography there becomes effortless, and I produce awesome image after awesome image, taking the same easy symmetrical reflection shots over and over again.

Thanks for reminding me, Paul, that while one can find beauty in reflection, at some point you need to step away from the mirror…


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