Definition: Abstract Photography

Definition: Abstract Photography | Glossary entry

Abstract Photography

Like abstract art, abstract photography concentrates on shape, form, colour, pattern and texture. The viewer is often unable to see the whole object. The subject of the photo is often only a small part of the idea of the image. Viewers may only know the essence of the image subject or understand it by what is implied.

Often the image will not be a literal view of the subject itself. The subject tends to come second to seeing. The impact of aspects of the subject become a form of expressing the point. The abstract tends to bring out some or all of these aspects…

  • Line.
  • Patterns.
  • Textures.
  • Angles.
  • Proximity (closeness or distance from the subject).
  • Crop (especially of segments or parts of the whole).
  • Colour variation.
  • Tonal variation.
  • Hard light rendering of the subject.
  • Soft light rendering of the subject.
  • Shape (2D).
  • Form (3D).
  • Curves.
  • Symmetry.
  • Geometry.
  • Perspective (especially depth).
  • Layering and overlapping.
  • Reflection.
  • Highlights and darks.
  • Focus and depth of field.
  • Blur (bokeh).
  • Movement, or expression of movement.

In abstract photography there are dimensions rarely seen in other media. Focus can add to the conceptual feel of abstracts by isolating parts of the subject through the use of blur. Good quality blur, bokeh, is the frosted-focus effect created by control of the Depth of field.

The other dimension is movement blur. It is not unique to photography. It is a however, an important factor for composition in photos. Blur tends not to be used to the same extent in other visual arts except maybe video.

Summary

‘Abstract photography’ introduces the viewer to the essence of an object. The aim is to help the viewer gain an emotional, almost primeval link to the image. The viewer is supposed to enjoy the ‘feel’ of how it looks. For the viewer, abstract photography is not about knowing and recognising the subject. It is more about emotionally connecting with it.

The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page
There are few good books on abstract photography. So this historical view is welcome. It brings together the concepts and the art in abstract photography. It reaches from the earliest images to modern processes. There are quality colour pictures too. The book includes up-to-date material from well known abstract photographers. The images, the history and methods give readers an all-round view.

What readers said:
5* :: Great buy!
5* :: A lovely book
5* :: Be educated and stimulated
5* :: …filled with deep and insightful articles and ideas to inspire.
The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography The Edge of Vision. A book about abstract photography. External link - opens new tab/page

 

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
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23 responses to “Definition: Abstract Photography

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  15. Interesting definition of abstract photography, I find it hard to describe or explain what it is. ‘The viewer is supposed to enjoy the ‘feel’ of how it looks. For the viewer, abstract photography is not about knowing and recognising the subject.’ I like that! Thank you for summing it up!

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