When you’re exploring the abstract photography in our catalogue at Rise Art, take a look at the work of British photographer Eleanor Cunningham whose cleverly manipulated landscape shots are unusual and striking.
If you’re interested in digital photography which focuses upon the urban public space as its subject then explore the work of London-based photographer Paulina Korobkiewicz. Her mesmerising photographs are cleverly cropped to depict patterns in modern architecture, leading to photographs which are bright and captivating.
Abstract photography allows for even the most mundane of subjects to be represented in ways that are exciting and innovative. By employing a variety of photographic tools and techniques such as special lenses, filters and lighting, photographers have the power to translate basic subject matter into striking abstract forms.
Abstract photography was born out of the shift from figurative subjects in other artistic fields in the early 1900s. Modernist artists sought to create optical art which did not refer to real life objects – this desire became shared by photographers alike. Photographers would render figurative objects unrecognisable by approaching the medium in a new way, cropping and manipulating their images. Early abstract photographers joined forces, creating collectives such as the Subjektive Fotografie in order to explore the visual aspect of the medium. These groups experimented with close-ups, cropping, negative printing and the use of different exposure settings. Later movements, notably Surrealism, also embraced the capabilities of the medium and developed unrealistic images further through solarization and layering methods. These abstract photographers aimed to establish photography as a field that requires artistic skill, challenging the strictly informative function of the photograph. Today, photographers still concern themselves with creating abstract compositions but are now aided by improved camera technology and post-processing software.
The Subjektive Fotografie collective created abstract photography using techniques such as close ups, solarisation and negative printing. They experimented also with different time exposure settings and played around with perspective. Similar manipulation techniques were also used by Surrealist photographers in their abstract body photography. Double exposure, combination printing, montage and other forms of distortion were all utilised by the Surrealists to give their photographs of female nudes an uncanny and dreamlike feel. Contemporary abstract photographers can now experiment with different lenses and focus settings as well as with macro photography which allows them to zoom in closely upon even the smallest of subjects. Photographers also tend to play around with light, shadow, texture and the lines and curves of their subjects in order to create dense, abstract compositions.
Some of the first significant abstract photographs are attributed to Paul Strand who played with light and shadow and incorporated hard lines and geometry in his images. Meanwhile, Alfred Stieglitz, Strand’s mentor, is well known for his modern abstract compositions as well as his semi-abstract portrait photography of his wife.