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Abstract Photography - What is it?

July 26, 2012 at 6:45 PM

There are many definitions of the word abstract when related to photography, and as a result of such diversity, this artistic genre can be misunderstood and often shunned.

So what is abstract, and what can it be to you?

The good, the bad - and the vague

Abstract is loosely defined as "non-representational", meaning that the photo doesn't depict "reality".

As a definition, this isn't enough; let's look further.

Objective and Non-Objective Abstract

Non-objective abstract has no real subject. In painting art, it's shapes and colours created from the artist's imagination. In photography, it can be objects that have been filtered, defocused or motion-blurred to total obscurity, so that only the colours, transitions and patterns remain.

This type of abstract art has perhaps, at times, been responsible for tainting the whole genre. If you like it, great. But if you don't ....

Objective abstract involves real subjects compositionally arranged to emphasise form rather than identity - pleasing patterns, lines, curves, textures or colours - real, observational and creative photography!

Abstraction - a familiar process

The verb abstract means to take away, or to consider independently - and that's the remit of objective abstract photography.

Generally, strong images have their components arranged in a cohesive and pleasing manner within a selective frame. The photographer creates a strong image by simplifying the composition and eliminating all discordant distractions. With abstraction, we take the same process a stage further.

By applying all the usual creative processes - observation, previsualisation and careful composition - but getting in close, concentrating wholly on the patterns, lines, textures and colours, you create a new, "abstracted" subject. This new subject is independent from the identity of the object(s); its identity is now secondary, but not necessarily obscured.

A genre within - and without

Objective abstract isn't an exclusive genre of photography. You often apply it to other genres:

You can isolate shapes, textures and colours within a landscape, excluding all that detracts attention from the subject(s) within. The subject within could be a shadow or reflection.

You could be framing up a macro shot and notice a particularly pleasing detail; move in closer and compose the subject within - without the distractions.

Abstract can be compositional choice that you can apply to lots of photographic genres, from architecture to street photography.

Observe, visualise, close in, compose and capture! Smile



Tags: Abstract Objective Composition
Category: Photography

Peter Finch

I am an independent digital photography tutor and writer from Irlam, Manchester, England. I offer one-to-one photography training in Greater Manchester, Cheshire and other north-west areas. Click "Tuition" on the main menu to read more.


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