2013: An Amazing Year of Déjà Vu

A swimmer dives into the icy water of the Houhai Lake in central Beijing
Petar Kujundzic—Reuters | Sonu Mehta—Hindustan Times/Getty Images
Left: Feb. 16, 2013.
A swimmer dives into the icy water of the Houhai Lake in central Beijing, China.

Right: March 9, 2013.
A man bathes in river Yamuna at Kalindi Kunj in New Delhi, India.

At this time last year, TIME LightBox presented a gallery of photographic duos — pairs brought together for their similarities. Whether the resemblance was conscious, accidental, coincidental or merely aesthetic, these images — like peas in a pod — bore remarkable and often surprising likeness to each other.

These days, it’s close to impossible for a photographer to produce a wholly original image. Everyone is a photographer, and chances are, if you’re taking a photograph of something, someone else is too. Photographers, thus, have to try harder and harder to produce an image uniquely theirs — free of clichés and imitation.

But photo-driven déjà vu can take one by surprise, too. Triggered by images’ composition or content, similarities in pictures of divergent subjects can often seem like far more than mere coincidence. Unlikely connections in disparate photos can nag at us, even when the images are made years or many miles apart. And, of course, photographers working in different countries or on separate continents can have no idea that they’ve made an image nearly identical to another taken somewhere over the horizon, or on the other side of the world.

This year, we decided to play off the idea of déjà vu that we started last year — embarking on an anthropological dig through our collective visual memory to unearth images from the past year that awaken a familiar sense of recognition. Although it feels you may have seen it before, coincidence can be truly unbelievable!


Phil Bicker is a senior photo editor at TIME.


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