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  1. #1

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    What defines an abstract? And why do I like them

    "Abstraction is inherent in the photographic medium and through abstraction the photographer exercises choices that carry photography beyond record-realism to the expression of his or her personal viewpoint"...... Barbara Morgan

    Came across this statement while looking for a definition of an Abstract Photograph but not being very philosophical was unsure if it makes the grade. Is there a definitive description of an Abstract photograph?
    I am still torn as to whether I like taking abstracts or extracts. I personally feel that I like extracts of the whole, not abstracts. Is this as big a grey area as I believe it is.

    Better still, are there any books available on why I like abstract/ extract photographs?

    Confused

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  2. #2
    papagene's Avatar
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    In a strict literal sense, photography by its very nature is abstract: a two dimensional representation of the 3-D world. Black & White is even more so. But I think you are talking about something very different.
    An abstract may be a photograph that has been manipulated in some way to alter the appearance of the subject/scene. Or it may be what you are calling an extract, where compositional elements become more important than the subject itself. You are probably going to finds as many definitions as there are responders to your question.
    I am going to have to get scanned a photogram a fellow photographer gave me. It's totally abstract, but very stunning in the range of tones he achieves from this simple process.
    gene
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  3. #3

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    i have always been under the spell that like in painting or drawing, "abstract" in photography is a photographic image where the subject is either nonrepresentational, or it is a detail shot which is extracted (nice word ) to remove it from its original context to something else.

    aaron siskind took photographs of pealing paint on the side of a building, or photographs of anti government graffiti that was painted over by the government (no longer graffiti?) and crack-patches on the pavement . all of the images can be said to be abstract because the subject has been removed from its context as paint, grafitti & tar.

    i kind of like to go one step further, like gene's friend - using the photographic process as a way to create an image - not based in reality, but the "result" of a photographic experiment image just the same. i've posted on of these images in my personal gallery ...

    abstract means a lot of different things to a lot of differnet people. maybe because people see different things in a nonrepresentational image as it allows one to use their imagination --- kind of like looking at clouds.
    it'll be nice to read what others have to say ...

    -john
    Last edited by jnanian; 08-16-2004 at 04:29 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4
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    I have always loved abstracts. All thru my years of viewing work, I've appreciated them the most, I think. Especially the work of Minor White, Wynn Bullock and Chiarenza.

    To me an abstrat is a photograph of nothing. And by that I mean 'no thing'. Abstracts are not concerned about a thing as a subject. Instead they emphasize shape, texture and tone in such a way as to create a visually impactful image that by nature, cannot be identifed as a thing.

    Abstracts may be the purest form of photography, from a certain point of view. We begin abstraction by turning out visual perception of reality in our brains into a 2D color image. Then we remove the color dimension and we not have a 2D b&w abstraction of reality. Then we remove the subject itself and are left with just shape, tone and texture. About the only more elemental approach would be to start removing 1 or more of these items. Like the painter who painted a canvas pure white and called it a painting.

    I think abstracts are pleasing to look at because they can be so simple. We don't have to think about what subject we're looking at and if we've been to that particular mountain before. We can just enjoy it for what it is if it's well executed.

    -Mike

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikewhi
    To me an abstract is a photograph of nothing. And by that I mean 'no thing'. Abstracts are not concerned about a thing as a subject. Instead they emphasize shape, texture and tone in such a way as to create a visually impactful image that by nature, cannot be identifed as a thing.
    Mike
    I like what you are saying but don't particularly go out of my way to distance the subject, I just see a different shape or form, or like to emphasise these three properties (Shape and/or Form and/or Texture)

    An example is my Radical series of late. It is a beaut of a car but in the 2 hours I had with it I never took a single full car shot. Only after the wife asked have I got a shot with and for the kids did I take a colour shot in full.

    I found myself wanting to exaggerate the curves and light forms etc. Afterwards I wanted to know why?


    Quote Originally Posted by mikewhi
    I think abstracts are pleasing to look at because they can be so simple. We don't have to think about what subject we're looking at and if we've been to that particular mountain before. We can just enjoy it for what it is if it's well executed.
    Yes but we generally look at them longer than a standard view. Well I do anyway

    Phill
    It is not tradition that secures the survival of our craft, its the craft that secures the survival of our traditions.

  6. #6
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    [QUOTE=philldresser]Mike
    >I found myself wanting to exaggerate the curves and light forms etc. >Afterwards I wanted to know why?

    It's probably because that's what you were attracted to about the subject in front of you. It wasn't the subject (car), but aspects of that when photographed had little or nothing to do with 'car'. Instead it was shape\tone\texture. I often listen to music like that - a single refrain or note can often capture my attention and is remembered for years long after I forgot the song as a whole. Mozart and Jewel in particular do this to me.

    >Yes but we generally look at them longer than a standard view. Well I do >anyway
    I think they have a haunting attraction to them and I also tend to stare at them for much longer than straight images. Often I drift off and daydream or whatever. It's almost like they serve as a catalyst to one's inner self. But I'm starting to sound like Minor White<g>.



 

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