Abstract Photography

What is an abstract photograph?

There are two broad categories of images (besides good & bad πŸ˜‰ ) –

  1. Representational – the image includes things that are readily recognizable by viewers
  2. Abstract – nothing in the image is recognizable by the viewer (the opposite of the above). Abstract images can be said to “have no subject”; they are made up solely of shapes, lines, textures, color and tones. The interpretation of the image’s “meaning”, if there is a meaning, is up to the viewer.

That may not be much help, but go with it.

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Abstract photographs can, in turn, be divided into two broad categories –

  1. Found images: which means just what it says – it’s an image that you came upon while out with your camera
  2. Created images: (no, not made in Photoshop), studio type shots created with materials that you’ve “set up” for the purpose of creating an abstract image

Here is an earlier post, From Reality to Abstraction, withΒ  suggestions and illustrations on an approach for making found abstract images. Abstract images, and their success, depend almost entirely on your visual design skills – the arrangement of shapes, lines, textures, color and tones in the picture space.

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Here are a few examples (click to enlarge) –

A found abstract created by shooting a 10-shot in camera multiple exposure. One could argue – and they did πŸ˜‰ – as to whether this stand of white birch was or was not “readily recognizable”.

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Taking the above image into Silver Efex Pro 2 (B&W conversion) allowed me to “abstract the image” further (maybe the green grass was a give away πŸ˜‰ ).

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And again in Silver Efex Pro 2, another slightly different (more brooding) image (but wait, are the birch bark markings making “recognizability” too easy – don’t sweat it, just enjoy making images unless you’re a judge ;-( ).

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One last try at “abstraction”. How about if I flip the above image vertically? It’s more abstract (confuses those who saw a stand of trees). But how about the composition? Do you like it as well or better this way? I don’t but that may be because I know what it is. [Update – the more I return to this version, the more it appeals to me. Searchlights probing the night sky?]

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OK, those were examples of “found abstracts”. How about a created abstract?

The following questions are something to ponder as you consider the following examples – and abstracts in general.

  • What is it? It’s unrecognizable (and considered poor form to ask πŸ˜‰ )
  • What does it mean? Check with a shrink as I sure don’t know and intended no hidden message.
  • Do you like it? Probably not, as most people (including 100% of photo competition judges) don’t. But – give abstracts a chance and they may grow on you – they did me.
  • Why this post? I was searching for a topic and was thinking about abstracts in light of an upcoming juried exhibit (that I decided at the last minute not to enter since it went against my decision of two years ago to divorce myself from anything smacking of competition & judges other than the only one that counts for my work – me.)

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I suspect that one reason many/most? don’t care for abstract images is that we have a need to understand what we’re viewing – just speculation. For example, once I came up with an alternate explanation for my final version of the “found abstract”, the one that was flipped upside down, it began to appeal to me. I found several “explanations” for what I was seeing and the more that I looked for them the more I enjoyed the experience. Do you see a human form in the final image above – upper back, shoulders, neck (just this once I’ll divulge what it is – the top of an antique medicine bottle with colored light from my monitor in the background)? Is it more appealing/interesting if you see this “person” instead of just colors, lines & shapes??