What is Abstract Art anyway? Definitions of Abstract Art are many and complex. Some of the best are definitions by the artists and critics themselves, I give you Rudolf Arnhem’s: -
'Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, form, colour and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world’’.
In the early days of photography, the photographers have sort to create abstract photographs and many found like the photographer Ansel Adams that: -
‘In a strict sense photography can never be abstract, for the camera is incapable of synthetic integration’
Photographs of abstract patterns of moving lights or smoke, sunlight, manmade structures, oil on water etc. are only a record of what is there in front of the lens and can be repeated ad infinitum.
Abstract Digital Photography
The abstract painter is faced with a blank canvas, paints and brushes and produces the abstract from experience, skills, talent and the creative idea or vision. The photographer has in the past only the print. The abstract photograph created by Joel H Neumann Gustav I (1976) (Fig 1) from a print using chemicals shows what could be acheived.
Maya Rochat (Fig 2) today works with her own photographs to produce stunning abstracts using photographs, transparencies, an overhead projector and a variety of substances and tools.Today’s digital photographer has access not to chemicals but the very element that produces the actual image, namely the pixel with all its built-in variables. Not only that but access to digital software that has the tools to manipulated those on a computer. Therefore, my understanding of Abstract Photography: -
‘Abstract Photograhy is the visual expression of a creative idea involving one or more photographs that have inspired the photographer and have little or no visual links to reality.’
As far as I can discover there are only two methods of creating an abstract digital photograph using the pixels.
a. Cut and pasting.
This has been used over the years by actually cutting up photographs and producing montages. Now in the digital world pixels can be selected, transformed and moved in a multitudinous of ways. Tony Bramley’s work (Fig 3), which reflects the concepts of Suprematism, illustrates what can be achieved in Adobe Photoshop using layers.
This involves using the attributes of the chemicals or digital elements that make up the image to create new images. In the case of actual photographs, the inks or chemicals can be altered in tone, colour and position.
It was an online tutorial by photographer Julie Powell entitled ‘Off the Grid’ (Fig 4) that gave me the idea of using the pixels in two layers and blending them to produce a new limage.