There was a time when I just did not get abstract photography. What was its point? Pretty patterns, shifty shapes and creative colour all looked OK, but what did it mean? I was more of the literal field, telling tales of human life. Real people, real lives.
I am not sure when it changed, so I assume it must have been gradual, but I have now swung the other way. I get it. Well, I get what it does for me. Does it work for you? Let me share what it does for me. You might change your mind.
Let’s start with a definition: abstract (adjective) “relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures”.
OK, so it’s photography that does not attempt to represent external reality. Instead through choice of shapes, colours, patterns and textures it creates the opportunity for an emotional connection.
Abstract Photography is a little like poetry. With poetry the words, rhythms and spaces create images in our mind that connect with our heart. With Abstract Photography it is the shapes, colours, patterns and textures we choose to frame that create the emotional connection. We are less concerned with what the object is (because it is not easily defined) and more receptive to how we feel about the photograph.
Fooling the Mind
Here’s a little test. When you first saw this photo what happened? In fractions of a second your mind took in the colour, shape, shadow and lines and tried to find a match to a previously known object. It was searching for a label to name the object. We do like to make sense of this world and of course it is this ability that keeps us alive!
What if you can’t identify what it is. What happens then? Your mind has absorbed other facts. The colours, shapes, patterns, lines etc all suggest ideas and feelings. These ideas and feelings are generated from our experience, from our culture. For example: white symbolises purity, cleanliness; the downward curve could be the edge of a sad mouth. We are reading the photo and connecting with how we feel about it.
Ok, who didn’t see waves here? There we go our mind making sense. There is not water, of any kind, in this photo. It’s all tarmac, concrete and metal. But how does it make you feel?
So, are you intrigued. Want to learn more? The Feeling Course looks in depth at creative abstract photographers and delves into the opportunities abstract photography presents to create photographs that make an emotional connection.
P.S. The photos were of a kettle and a car parked by the pavement