Contemporary Abstract Photographers

Discussion in 'Abstract' started by unrealnature, Oct 27, 2016.

  1. Do you have abstract photographers that you admire who are making work right now? Please post links!
    (Yes, member links are welcome.)
    One that I really enjoy is Manuel Geerinck, but he's a little bit of a problem because he photographs his own (non-photographic) artwork to make his abstracts. Nevertheless, if you look at them, I think you'll agree that they are photographs. He's just got an unfair advantage in being able to make his own source material.
    Richard Caldicott is interesting (see, for example, some of his work with Tupperware). Also interesting is Ellen Carey's work with Polaroids. Hers is tricky because I'm trying to stick to abstracts that use cameras (i.e. not camera-less abstracts, of which there is much that I enjoy). Not sure how much of Carey's fits that bill.
    Finally, just to mention the obvious, Barbara Kasten has been and is still doing, tons of abstract work that is well-known and well-loved. I'm not a big fan, but she is surely abstract and surely very good at what she does.
  2. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    in my view all photos are abstract, so here's one of mine
  3. "That one may see for miles into a bit of paper no bigger than one's hand is, of necessity, a perpetual wonder" — The Photographer's Annual 1891
    Oh, wait. Wrong thread. That quote is from my Landscape book ...
    [norman , on the other hand, the dust-on-your-sensor smudge, middle left side ... Now that's abstract. Add more (maybe on the upper right?) and we're really cooking.]
  4. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    harrumph. it's a smudge on the glass through which i made the abstraction, if you don't mind. but thanks for noticing.
  5. "it's a smudge on the glass"
    No, no no, norman. Sheesh, what kind of abstractionist are you?
    It's your questing deep inner soul ("questing" gives us the profound image title "???").
    Or, no, I think maybe it's norman's inner fart aimed in my general direction. The ??? is its search for the target of its deepest desires: abstract poseurs everywhere. No? Okay, I'll keep trying.
  6. Abstract poseurs? Thanks for the invitation!
  7. *throwing up my hands in disgust*
    For Pete's sake, William. The first rule of being a poseur is that you must deny that you're a poseur. (Nice photo!)
    First norman doesn't know how to properly blow hot air. Now William can't even pose properly. I have to tell you guys everything.
  8. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Or, no, I think maybe it's norman's inner fart aimed in my general direction
    grow up, ffs. if you can't handle alternative definitions of abstract photographs to your own maybe you should be more specific.
  9. But, Julie, my wife already tells me everything...
  10. Good lord. I am William's wife!
    This really messes up my day. William will want lunch.
  11. To come back to Julie's contemporary abstract photography, I have been looking around in my files to find contemporary photographers in the field I follow:
    I'm especially attracted by abstracts related to life in cities and contemporary building. The decomposition of the visual view permits sometimes to catch the essence of city life, how our inner self lives it (without provoking a philosophical debate, I hope). Many contemporary photographers work on this theme, which is surely different from the abstract constructions you refer to with photos of photographers like Richard Caldecott (I love his Installation view, Sous les Eatables Gallery, 2015).
    Look at Mike Lee and his urban abstract photos like this one from his Wall series or another from the same series, Danille van Hilten's "SMCS3", or Mica Hubertus Mick's Cityscapes futuristic.
    But you can of course also go inside city buildings and the same visual wealth is available to the photographer like the one below.
  12. grow up, ffs. if you can't handle alternative definitions of abstract photographs to your own maybe you should be more specific.​
    This is a quote from Ellen Carey's Polaroid work Julie linked to in her OP that I find is a perfect definition of abstract photography that IMO can apply to any other visual format for communicating abstracts in general...
    Questions frequently asked about my work include, ”How is this picture made?” followed by “What is this a picture of?” The first question addresses photography as process. The photographic object often involves an intersection of process and invention, as does the practice of photography itself. In traditional photography, both the process and the invention are “transparent”, mere means to an end. In my work the process becomes the subject. The second question addresses the conundrum of a photographic image without a picture or a “sign” to read. These two questions challenge our cultural and historically prescribed expectations for this medium to narrate and document, all the while revealing no trace of its own origins.​
    What was the process and invention used in your sailboat seascape that was not transparent (a process clearly seen by the viewer) and not used as an obvious means to an end to merely narrate and document, norman? I see your image documenting a seascape. That's not an abstract.
    An abstract version would be to apply some type of photoshop filter that would turn the detailed elements into a simplified graphic or bizarre texture or to make a copy of the image, flip it in reverse on a photoshop layer and go to town on the blending modes, maybe even "invert" (make it a negative). That would clearly indicate process and invention you came up with in your own mind to turn a seascape into an abstract.
    Abstracts tell more about the photographer in how they think about process and invention made obvious in how they manipulate or point the lens at anything that makes the image not just a documentation of a real object or scene.
    Thanks, Julie, for those links. I wish I could come up with favorite or known abstract photographers but as I've said before I don't know what to look for nor do I have the motivation. I would have to go on a long online search I know I'll be saying to myself..."Next, next, next, no...not that one". There's just too many to cull through. With your links you've provided I trust your eyes and instinct to speak for me. Good choices, BTW.
  13. Thank you Tim. I'll probably have more to say to your post later. (You caught me as I am typing my response to Anders and getting links for the below).
    Anders your posted picture, which I like -- the coloring with the mood -- seems more abstract than any of those you linked to.
    Are you familiar with Roland Fischer's architectural abstracts? His Façade series or his New Architecture series? Click through the series to find some that are more abstract (some are less).
  14. Ander's submission is a perfect example of the wandering eye's effect on showing process and invention which can be conveyed through cropping and composing as well as with post processing to make the viewer not see it as just a picture of an architectural structure. He's added or maybe brought out the ambience, mood and mystery provided by the lighting of the structure with what I'm assuming is his adding the yellow and black tones to sort of look like a graphic of a real object.
  15. Now the one below that I took of an antique ceramic saucer that reflects these intense colors when only tilted toward the light at certain angles even challenges and possibly contradicts the Ellen Carey quote on what defines an abstract photo.
    The process is invisible because I shot Raw and brought out the colors in post which is not made evident unless I tell it. Part of the process was my wandering eye noticing the reflecting color and zooming in to form a cropped composition to obscure or downplay the fact that it's an antique saucer. I'ld say the invention part was the post processing. The unedited version looks flat, dull and gray.
    Maybe Julie and others can correct me on how I fit this into the definition of an abstract photo.
  16. Easily abstract, Tim.
    But it seems undecided about what it wants to do: the lines and shapes seem out of synch with the colors. This feels like a "feeling it out" kind of picture: you know something's there and your circling to flush it out. It's got to come from you, so it's you you're circling. :)
  17. Oh, common Tim, yer saucer is a close up of norman's flying one (left side of the photo). :>)
    Thanks Julie for those links....I do enjoy abstracts and occasionally (certainly not enough) put some effort to come up with a pic or two. Yet, I've noticed that many photographers tend to re-do the same subject over and over (as if singing artist doing similar musical variation) vs finding something that's unrelated and truely unique. Only found one shot (v. cool) that Barbara Kasten did, but it's v. unique and the exposure is also spot on.
    Have leaves to rake....
  18. Julie, I'm still puzzling & pondering on your point about a photo deciding on what it want's to do. I thought a photo only needs to communicate something or maybe just say "Here I am! Aren't I interesting?".
    Or are you personifying the photo as a connection to the personality of the photographer where it can be difficult to make the connection other than detecting some attitude or POV?
    Every time you make that point about a photo, Julie, it immediately makes sense, then I go, wait...what?...uh, now what does that mean?
  19. Julie, no, I did not know Roland Fischer's abstracts. His 3/20 is wonderful, just to put up on a wall ! Thanks.
    Julie I will come back later concerning your comment on the city abstracts I linked to, which you found "less abstract". I'm not sure I agree.
    Tim, thanks for your comments. The abstract, you uploaded of the saucer, which is not ! I find interesting , especially after you have explained what it is, and how you ended up with the span of colors, but, in my eyes, it is lacking something. For me it looks like so many microscope shots, where you feel the astonishment of the variety of forms and colors in the smallest things, but I lack a compositional element, that could make it into an "abstract photography". Just a thought ! What is in fact the role of composition in abstract photography ?
    Your "Here I am! Aren't I interesting?" might be right for some living life as human selfy-ists, but I think most serious artists (if I can use the term without a long ping-pong reaction), are in general less extrovert and pursue a largely solitary path of self-expression and creative adventures - which sometimes, rather exceptionally, include showing the work to others to sell and eventually get comments and suggestion on how viewers experience the works.
  20. I think Anders is making a good point: that if you are just seeing an interesting macro shot, then it's just an interesting macro shot. But if you're seeing line and pattern and those lines and patterns are expressive of ideas or feelings, then it's an abstract.
    Though I'm not sure how Anders would know which it was if Tim hadn't told him.
  21. What is in fact the role of composition in abstract photography?​
    As I understand it is to obscure, change, distort perceptions of what is being presented in order to make it not a documentation or narrative of an object or scene. That's why I said in another Abstract forum that macro shots, depending on subject and how close one gets, can force a type of crop on reality to create the Abstract style or effect. That is what I did with the saucer.
    Like Julie indicated my explanation of the background of this shot turned it into an documentation of an object (no longer an abstract) and changed your perception or feeling about it. For me when I saw this light shimmering color effect in the saucer I saw it as no different than what I can do in Photoshop with a synthetically made graphic and overlaid canned textures. Would that still be considered an abstract photo since it's made up whole cloth in an image processor?
    Would fractal geometry made patterns made in a computer be considered an abstract photo or digital abstract art? How would one know if they were not told? If a human indicated this, then process and invention by a human would be acknowledged and a connection to a human communicating to another would change what it is. A human made this using a different tool and process.
  22. Maybe it should be said that if one talks about "contemporary art" fractals are with us and mos,t which is made by fractal artist is abstract. It is certainly not photography. No camera has been involved. Personally I'm yet to see something in fractal arts which interest me, but that is just me. I like the human touch with its imperfections.
    But, coming back to Tim's saucer, which is not a saucer, I did actually also look at the image before reading the text, and had the feeling that the image was lacking feet to walk on so to speak. Composition matters, also in abstract and maybe especially in abstract.
  23. A picture *is* a composition. A (visual) composition *is* a picture. They are the same thing.
    If I pretend I don't know what Tim has told me and I just look at his picture, I wouldn't say that it's not an abstract (though I think my previous "it seems undecided about what it wants to do" is pretty much the same criticism that Anders is making). That my eye is made interested in 'players' -- the fragmented, poppy colors, the strong, crusty arc on the left, and most of all the complicated, noisy discussion of the dance of lines on the right -- makes me say that this is an abstract, but a so far unfocused one. The players are in the same room, but they're not talking to each other.
    A story. This is from Rudolf Arnheim's Introduction to the new version of his Art and Visual Perception: A Psychcology of the Creative Eye:
    ... I have tried to spare the reader a hangover caused by reading many things that serve no good purpose. One of my reasons for writing this book is that I believe many people to be tired of the dazzling obscurity of arty talk, the juggling with catchwords and dehydrated aesthetic concepts, the pseudoscientific window dressing, the impertinent hunt for clinical symptoms, the elaborate measurement of trifles, and the charming epigrams. Art is the most concrete thing in the world, and there is no justification for confusing the mind of anybody who wants to know more about it."​
    Sounds good, right? But read on:
    ... "Recently, a young instructor at Dartmouth College exhibited an assemblage which, I am pleased to report, was called Homage to Arnheim. It consisted of ten identical mousetraps, arranged in a row. At the spot where the bait was to be affixed, he had written the titles of this book's ten chapters, one on each contraption."​
    I don't think any of us can miss the meaning of the mousetraps, even though a mousetrap has nothing to do with chapters in an art book. Just so, abstract art carries that method further and gives us compositional dynamics that we may immediately understand feelings and thoughts at the core of some felt idea.
  24. Yes surely, Julie, a picture is a composition, like a painting is made of paint. But does not bring us much forward. When I write that, for me, the abstract of Tim above lack of composition a lack of composition I actually wrote: that the picture is "lacking feet to walk on, so to speak. Composition matters, also in abstract and maybe especially in abstract". So it is not a question on composition or not but a question of a composition, that serves the picture. This is mostly intentionally chosen by the photographer, but can be unintentional too of course.
    How does Tim see it ?
  25. So it is not a question on composition or not but a question of a composition, that serves the picture.
    That my eye is made interested in 'players' -- the fragmented, poppy colors, the strong, crusty arc on the left, and most of all the complicated, noisy discussion of the dance of lines on the right -- makes me say that this is an abstract, but a so far unfocused one. The players are in the same room, but they're not talking to each other.​
    Examining both Julie's and Ander's description of my saucer abstract actually made me rethink how I could've said something more changing the composition by pulling back the lens and showing more of the "dancing" lines which is friction lines from years of unglazed ceramic bottom cups scraping the glaze off to more appear like free form brush strokes similar to Japanese calligraphy.
    Why can't an abstract that appears to have "elements that don't talk to each other" just come across as a celebration of image language styles? Or to put it in layman's terms..."It just looks cool" similar to Ellen Carey's Polaroid color smears. What elements are talking to each other in those abstracts?
  26. Hmmm ... Carey's aren't "color smears" for me, but I'll leave that alone.
    What does "just look cool" mean? A feeling? What feeling? The same for all abstracts, or is the cool of one different from the cool of the next? How?
  27. Hmmm ... Carey's aren't "color smears" for me, but I'll leave that alone.​
    OK, my mistake in communicating what I saw, Julie. Could you just answer the question on what elements in her abstracts are talking to each other so I can understand what you mean?
    It's like you're speaking in another language from the planet "Chandelier" where the only means of communication is telegrams. Earth to Chandelier I need some grounding here.
    Hope you don't mind the ZZtop "Chandelier" reference from the song "Heaven, Hell or Houston" on their El Loco album.
  28. Talking about composition and abstract images, it can sometimes be usefull to draw on some simple lessons. First some basic rules and then wa can all can play with breaking them.
    Or listen to Debora Steward
    and Matthew Collings
  29. Tim, "smears" is passive. Does Carey's color look passive to you?
    I think the hardest thing about seeing abstract pictures is to stop making it so hard.
    If your picture-reading habits get in the way, try sneaking up on your responses (word association; flavor, smell, taste tags just to push yourself one way or the other; how heavy is it or its parts?; what's going where?). The bad news is, we've had this kind of free association beaten out of us since we were kids and did it freely and flamboyantly. The good news is, your response isn't going to be "wrong." It's yours (which seems to terrify people).
  30. Anders, thanks very much for the YouTube linked videos.
    I'm trying to do ten things at once this morning, but I looked at about half of the Matthew Collings video and just the beginning of the Debora Steward video. Both seem really good, from that glimpse, and should be helpful to anybody who wants to take the time to look. (I noticed that there are SIX from Collings, and I want to look at them all ... where to find the time ... )
    The text link ( seems not so helpful. I like that kind of dissection, but I think it probably makes a lot of people scream and leave the room.
  31. People running out screaming is very often a good reason to stay and read it twice - at least the first part with graphic illustrations.
  32. Anders, let's not be greedy.
    I think it's nothing short of a miracle that we've been given Tim who is willing and happy to say when and where he doesn't understand, and, even more miraculous (and wonderful!) to try out what is given. And to tell us that he doesn't agree (or stronger) with this or that, without every getting personal. I love it.
  33. Phil, I love it !
    Julie, I agree. Fairly seldom here on Photonet, where back-clapping is mostly the rule of the game.
  34. Also very good, in my view and definitely an abstract.
    Same abstract graphics below.
  35. Phil, I agree with much of what you write when you use formulations like: "when one is squinting ones eyes to render the world in abstract shapes and forms"
    May be it is useful to go back to the various definitions of "abstract art" in order to clarify, why such images as those above can be said to be "abstract".
    "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."
    "Abstract art images are "abstracted" from real life images"
    "Abstract art is not completely non-representational art. In fact, abstract art involves analysis, embellishment or deconstruction of existing natural forms."​
    But, it should of course be added, that the Russian painter, Wassily Kandinsky, during the very first years of the 20th century is said to have invented "absolute abstract" art: Artistic works, completely non-representational art , consisting of lyrical arrangements of shapes, lines and other elements with few visual analogues or references, if any, to the known reality we see around us. He did it, according to his own writings (1911) with the ambition of painting music.He had synesthesia, is has been said. Kandisky brought his abstractions into the Bauhaus movement in Germany (1922) from which it spread. But also Kandinsky came to his absolute abstract art through a long series of abstractions as in his series of "Improvisation" paintings (1909-1917), where he painted reality, mostly landscapes and cityscapes, as seen from his inner nature". My point is, that "abstract art" cannot, at least historically, be limited to "absolute abstract" art. It covers various degrees of independence from visual references in the world where reality is deconstructed into more more abstract visions.
  36. "It covers various degrees ... " No it doesn't. What is not abstract is not abstract. Yes art can be any and every mix of 'abstract-and,' but the abstract is still the abstract and the 'and' is still the not-abstract.
    I'm starting to feel like Sisyphus (and his boulder would be all you silent readers who are enjoying the daily roll).
    Let me try another tack:
    Instrumental music is abstract. You hear sound -- which is expressive or descriptive of [whatever].
    Vocal music is not abstract. You hear a person -- who is making sound which is expressive of [something that involves a person].
    Non-figurative art is abstract. You see light -- which is expressive or descriptive of [whatever].
    Figurative art is not abstract. You see things -- which are making or are made of light and which are in turn expressive of [something via those things].
  37. [pretending to be Anders -- which he won't like ... ]
    Anders: So, dear Julie, is this picture by Auguste Adolphe Bertsch, Spermatozoaires vivants de l'homme, 1853-57 abstract or figurative?
    Julie: Who cares! I love it! Plus it's not Modern, so I don't have to answer you in this Modern thread. :)
    Anders: Okay, then how about Gursky's Bangkok series, especially Bangkok VIII, given that Bangkoks I through VII are probably not abstract by your definition? [you'll need to search the images for yourself]
    Julie: I'm thinking. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the water both is and is not abstract ... But I would say, never both at the same time. :)
  38. Julie, it sounds like "Brexit is Brexit" type of talk, if I may refer to something very European. "Abstract is abstract" does not mean anything after all the different definitions and viewpoints, that up till now have been discussed.
    Try to explain what your own images, like the Biographic series, are for you. According to your restrictive definition, they are certainly not abstract. According to me, they most certainly are. I would believe that most viewers would see them as abstract compositions despite the fact that they only show recognizable elements.
    I would say the same for these of mine: "Abstract of a leaf", or this abstract of "herbs" or this of Paris or this. They are all abstract according to me.
    Maybe we have reached the point, where we better agree to disagree on a definition. Instead, I would suggest, we should concentrate on sharing and discussing what we are doing or finding of interesting examples of "abstract photography".
  39. "According to me, they most certainly are." Good grief. My things are spoof, allegory, satire, parody, fantasy, or fairy tale, but abstract they are not.

    What they are spoofing is the absurdity of trying to portray the abstract figuratively. How ridiculous it is to try and find geometry in nature, for example.
  40. Instrumental music is abstract. You hear sound -- which is expressive or descriptive of [whatever].
    Vocal music is not abstract. You hear a person -- who is making sound which is expressive of [something that involves a person].​
    ELLA AND MEL RESPOND to show that hard distinctions can be blurred in any medium.
    P is not not-P works best in logic class, not as well in art class.
  41. "Good grief" etc (Julie)
    And yet, your abstractions from nature is indeed "abstract" whether you call it: "spoof, allegory, satire, parody, fantasy, or fairy tale" according to the three "definitions" of abstract art I gave you above:
    "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."
    "Abstract art images are "abstracted" from real life images"
    "Abstract art is not completely non-representational art. In fact, abstract art involves analysis, embellishment or deconstruction of existing natural forms."​
    But of course you are free to choose another definition.
    I think Fred, above, is right.
  42. "Good grief" etc (Julie)
    And yet, your abstractions from nature is indeed "abstract" whether you call it: "spoof, allegory, satire, parody, fantasy, or fairy tale" according to the three "definitions" of abstract art I gave you above:
    "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."
    "Abstract art images are "abstracted" from real life images"
    "Abstract art is not completely non-representational art. In fact, abstract art involves analysis, embellishment or deconstruction of existing natural forms."​
    But of course you are free to choose another definition.
    I think Fred, above, is right.
  43. Interesting.
    Fred and Anders hear only music in Fred's clip. I hear Mel and Ella making music.
    Anybody else only hear music without any awareness of person(s) in Fred's clip?
  44. Julie,
    I hear Mel and Ella making music. My disagreement is with the distinction you're making in saying that instrumental music is abstract and vocal music is not abstract because supposedly only vocal music includes a person. When I hear THIS, I hear a person playing just like I hear a person singing when I hear Ella. The involvement of a person doesn't negate abstraction. If there's a distinction to be made in music (and, as I said, I don't find hard distinctions useful here), it would be that music without lyrics may often come across as more abstract than music with lyrics, the lyrics providing more narrative and representation than the music itself. (And there are lots of exceptions, many more than the obvious exception of something like Mairzy Doats.)
    Your distinction between figurative and non-figurative falls apart along similar lines of being too dogmatic and drawing too hard lines. In figurative examples of German Expressionism, for example, not seeing abstractly would miss much of the point. There's a level on which even a representational German Expressionist photo or painting operates as an abstract, IMO.
  45. 'Seeing abstractly' is not abstract art.
    Can you point to figurative content that is abstract? Please link.
  46. Are they? How so?
    (I know what Stieglitz said about the set.)
  47. Julie, I don't understand your rigidity in these discussions.
    The only frame, within which I can find room for your interpretation of what Abstract Art is, would be in the frame of some kind of linear evolution of abstraction throughout the history of art (Turner and forward) which one day in the beginning of the 50's, I believe it was, somewhere in New York, it has been argued (Greenberg), ultimate pure "abstract art" was born and since that very day anything else seized to be abstract.
    Art does not have place for reference to orthodoxy. Art is there to break walls and question rules and authority.
  48. "'Seeing abstractly' is not abstract art."​
    Yes it is.
    "Can you point to figurative content that is abstract? Please link."​
    I've provided links below. But first, it's important to look at this well-known FIGURE-GROUND IMAGE. You might say it's two faces and you'd be right. You might say it's a vase and you'd be right. That's because it's both. And sometimes, it's just black and white shapes. It doesn't have to be either.
    Photos can be looked at more or less abstractly. The first four easily lend themselves to being abstract. Even with the photo of O'Keeffe, the last link below, as figurative as it may seem, there are times when I see it as an abstract. That's just the way it can be when I experience visual imagery. And with Mondrian's BROADWAY BOOGIE WOOGIE, on the other hand, as abstract as it may seem, there are times when I simply see the streets and traffic in Manhattan, not to mention hearing a jazzy trumpet.

    Martin Munkacsi, Bambini
    Gyorgy Kepes, Street Scene from Above Electrical Wires
    Gyorgy Kepes, Without Title
    Otto Umbehr (Umbo), Unheimliche Strasse

    And finally:
    Alfred Stieglitz, Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe
    . . .
    Only conscious man can mirror the universal: he can consciously become one with the universal and so can consciously transcend the individual.
  49. Julie, you might want to stop thinking that you have to "explain this." No one here seems to misunderstand what you're saying. We just disagree. All you have to do is accept that. Or . . . obviously . . . not. It's an unfortunately very typical but I find also very odd type of thinking that says that people who disagree must not understand and if only it is explained better they will agree. That's not the way it works.
  50. I agree with Fred on this. Good links to examples of abstract photography. Thanks.
    Julie, concerning the links I gave concerning composition in abstract art, they are referring to what you insist should be the only form of abstract art permitted. There are others ! and the compositional challenges are the same.
  51. Fred's examples (except perhaps the image of O'Keefe, but please read on) and that many other "abstract" photographs are simply composites of two elements that the viewer responds to, the (what one may term) abstract and figurative elements. One or the other may be predominant, but both act on the viewer.
    Purely abstract does exist, and more easily in painting than in photography I think, but I wonder if not all photography is a priori and unequivocally abstract, as it's figurative or other elements are not as the subject was at the time of viewing (who can claim to accurately capture a figurative subject, even a microscope image)? They will never exist again as captured, are history once they are made, and are evidence of only a minute slice of historical time, hence only fractionally representative. The subject and its photographic image are divorced from each other. Perhaps we might say that the purpose of the photo is to render a subject in a figurative or even abstract sense, although the product of photography lies to us to some extent .... and can only exist as an abstraction of what existed at the moment of capture.
    Thanks to Julie et al for some great examples to pave this forum, including Roland Fischer's architectural abstracts. Munkasci is also a great and overlooked practitioner of photography.
  52. I didn't see any of Fred's posted links as abstract photos including the non-photo...vase or faces "figure ground image".

    The figure ground image conceals, dismisses concept and idea behind the image by separating both the creator and their intent to the viewer mainly because that image's intent has been known for decades to test people's spacial recognition. It's not seen as an original conceptual creation or idea.
    Abstracts to me always point back to some awareness to the viewer by the creator and their intent in what they want to show and communicate, just in an expressive free form way detached from reality, any type of recognizable reality that acts as an obstacle to the mind and soul of the viewer.
    Abstracts attempt to create dream worlds which require having no recognizable connection to the physical world.
  53. Cuing on Tim's pointing out that abstract tries to get rid of any "obstacle to the mind." Yes.
    Abstract is what it does. It is immediate; not mediated. It is un-mediated.
    Abstract is not:
    • things that look like other things but with no apparent effect or intent
    • things that you can't figure out what they are and that therefore make interesting puzzles
    • conceptually complicated or narrative
    • illusion
    • hard
    Abstract is not hard. It's immediate, in the way that music is immediate. You hear it. You feel it. You don't have to think about it or put it into words* -- quite possibly can't put it into words -- to receive it. It is what it does.
    *obviously you can, and we do, but it is never necessary to the immediate effect
    Figurative = mediated
  54. Some abstracts may attempt to create dream worlds. Other abstracts may be a reflection on the act of perception itself.​
    And what is perception on reality from a metaphysical POV but to question whether our real world is real or just our perception of it or maybe a dream.
    You seem to come up with different ways to describe what I just said, but talk in circles as if it's something new or a counter argument. This is all a dream, Phil. Abstracts remind and communicate that. We're in agreement at this point unless you want to add something I've demonstratively shown I'm not aware.
    I guess I should change the name of my "Home Abstracts" folder in my PN gallery because a lot of them don't fit within the genre well defined in this thread. It's just I couldn't find a more descriptive and less lame word other than "Still Life" that communicates to me how I feel about those images. There's something in them I haven't seen before. There's maybe a few that qualify as abstract photos.
  55. Anders, brilliant photo, but it looks more surreal than an abstract. My mind gets in the way of seeing it either as a photo to show reality as a miniature using telephoto compression and out of focus lens (the one I prefer) or a photo of artwork at the Tate Modern (a documentation).

    I really like that image, Anders. It's just I've been made aware in my mind that I don't know how much of your vision and intent behind the making of it (invention & process) is affecting my perception of it which already tells me it's not an abstract.
    If you painted that I could tell it then I'ld call that an abstract according to this snippet from Kandinsky in that Collings Youtube video...
    Note he says he doesn't know what's coming next so his mind is making the look of that drawing.
  56. "I really like that image, Anders." I do to. It's a good picture. Just not abstract.
  57. Why isn't this (below) an abstract? It's very much what nature "feels like" to me; it's a representation of an idea of nature; it's immediate. Why isn't it an abstract?
    Because it is what it is. It already is nature. What's abstract about it?
  58. Julie, if you had added "for me" when writing:
    Abstract is....;
    Abstract is not...
    ...I would celebrate your project and admire your capacity of identifying what look for in "abstract images". But don't impose it on others, please.
    Thanks for your comment on my image.
  59. You are right that abstract photography will certainly bring with it the history of abstract painting (and abstract art in general), but it will especially bring with it the ongoing history of photography and in that connection it is certainly pertinent to refer for example to Gursky.
    I would invite to take the time to read Ryan Bush's very personal story about how he has been working with abstract photography and how he situates what he is doing centered around, what he calls : ordinary sight, true seeing and creative imagination.
    "As I worked more with abstract photographs ... is about making a connection with ... a hidden intermediate level of reality where matter and spirit meet."​
    Read here
  60. Phil, I don't think of this as a contest between more or less interesting. I'm interested in ... all of it. Are you familiar with Mangold and Ryman? I don't think the quoted description is true to Ryman.
    Did you look for the Gursky's Bangkok pictures I mentioned earlier in the thread?
    Anders it is my opinion that your opinion that what Ryan Bush writes about as abstract, is not abstract. It is, however, a very good statement of what many people take to be a description of abstract photography and for that reason, makes interesting reading. Because stuff isn't obviously anything, because it's hard to figure out what it is, doesn't make it abstract. Just the opposite, IMO.
    Arthur, I've not forgotten your post. Mulling the 'illusion' part with reference to abstract. Does it make a difference that other forms of art start from non-figurative, non-illusion and have to struggle to get to figurative/illusion; while photography starts in figurative/illusion and has to struggle to escape from it? A viewer's starting assumptions about photography are different from those of other forms of art. So?
  61. I think Ryman is interested in light. Looking at it. Watching it. Wherever it is (his pictures play with it, especially where natural light changes through the day).
  62. If one of abstract art's unique qualities is that it attempts to get rid of "obstacles of the mind," the question comes to mind
    exactly which genres of art don't do this.

    I'm not sure it's necessarily fruitful to consider that particular genres have this or that effect as much as it is to consider
    observed differences in method, technique, and relationships to other genres, mediums, and history. I'm generally
    skeptical of claims that landscapes or still lifes or portraits or street work are more attuned to having this or that effect.

    Too much non-abstract work has had the effect on me of removing mental obstacles for me to give any priority to abstract
    art in doing so.
  63. "obstacles of the mind"
    You are right, Fred, but it is a question of degree, I would think.
  64. Yes, very much my point, Anders. It's a matter of degree, not genre. Some still lifes and some street photography have
    rid my mind of obstacles to an incredible degree as have some abstracts. Likewise, some works in each of those genres
    have done so to a much lesser degree. I don't notice a pattern that one genre tends to do it to more of a degree or more
    often than another genre.

    [Disclaimer: I notice myself going through a non-generalization phase right now. I've always steered clear of that, but it
    seems stronger lately, for whatever reason.]
  65. Julie: "Does it make a difference that other forms of art start from non-figurative, non-illusion and have to struggle to get to figurative/illusion; while photography starts in figurative/illusion and has to struggle to escape from it? A viewer's starting assumptions about photography are different from those of other forms of art. So?"
    Q.1 Many painters seem to use photographs of a subject or paint on its site, thus their creation is based at least in part on figurative input. If we are talking about abstract painters (thus not aiming at a figurative result) as I assume you really refer to, they would seem to have little need for figurative input, except in some cases where they may be inspired by it to some degree (or some aspect of it that will be completely transformed in anon figurative work. I agree that an abstract photography approach has to escape from the impulse to render the creation figurative, if only because it is based on figurative elements which are difficult I think to render non-figurative, or by doing so a liberty of expression may be compromised (wallpaper type images that seek tension or punctum through other elements, play of light or material).
    I think that abstract photography seems to be doomed to creating works of hybrid nature, figurative versus abstract. Nothing wrong with that, and it probably works to advantage in some cases.
    Q.2 I think that a viewer seeking an expression of art comes to a photograph in the same way he or she would consider a painting or other art form. Formalism in art transcends media.
    Not sure I am adding anything or responding to your questions, but I must leave for a while. My local figurative reality in these northern climes suggests that I had better get out quickly and buy a new plastic vestibule now shelter for the main entrance. The white stuff is not far off, waiting to blanket the environment and facilitate Chinese style winter images and Yugen minimalist compositions. I almost added that I hope you do not receive an early winter next week, but then restrained myself from such abstraction.
  66. Arthur, I'm thinking we're getting too far afield so I'll leave what I started. Thanks.
    Phil, what do you think of Carl Chiarenza's work? He's closely associated with Siskind (whom I like very much, too), but I think Chiarenza is a little better and is undoubtedly abstract. What do you think?
    He's older than I would like for a thread on Contemporary Abstract, but he's so good, he's always a pleasure for me to look at.
  67. Carl Chiarenza is new to me, but certainly very good. Siskind, is known and closer to the inspirations of Julie's own images.
  68. Carl Chiarenza's works (I have looked only at his 1970 folder to date) are to my mind the most successful abstract photography cited or shown to date.
    His balance of light and the various elements of composition is first rate and convincing and many of the images also have a rare capacity to evoke curiosity and emotions of pleasure. Abstact art formalism applied with a fine sense of beauty. I would go well beyond Ander's appreciation of very good.
    Julie, perhaps you feel that I have avoided your questions, but I am quite happy with the postulates of my answers and think they may represent the Achille's heel (in addition to lack of abstract art formalism) in many of the attempts to make abstract photography.
  69. Arthur, I wasn't fussing at you; rather I was noticing that my own thoughts were getting way over into theory. I appreciated what you had to say. Thanks!
    Chiarenza is kind of amazing. I'm glad he's getting a good look by readers of this thread.
  70. "A little better" than Siskind" and "he's so good" - is that good enough for you, Arthur ? Maybe very good is even better !

    Personally, I do not have a scale, or words for it, that makes it possible for me to mark abstract photographers and put them in hierarchies. So "very good" is my modest contribution on the matter. I can recognize the quality of Chierenza's abstracts, but they do not change my life. The mere quantity of his production makes me wonder, what is going on.
  71. Anders, my apology if I misquoted your appreciation. I just wanted to show my enthusiasm for seeing abstract photography that I thought (subjective opinion, of course) applied well the concepts of abstract art formalism, at least to the limited extent that I can appreciate them (I sold abstract art at my seasonal gallery for ten years and questioned the artists).
    Abstractions can of course be done with or without those formal qualities. Not sure what you meant about the quantity of production of someone like Chiarenza who was apparently active over several decades. J.S. Bach's BMV list is also quite extensive (several hundred compositions).
  72. No harm done, Arthur :)
    With all respect it seems quite disproportional to compare Chiarenza to Bach.
    I find it interesting to reflect on what is the difference between seeing tons of thumbnail pics of a visual artist and having a pile of Bach records, which you can only play in succession. Visual overfeeding is easy to feel in the first case.
    In Chiarenzo's case, furthermore, I miss to see the evolution over time of his works although he did in the 50s and 60s produce a number of abstract figurative photos, which could be used in our discussion on "what is...".
  73. Anders, just to clarify, the comparison was not of the quality of the works of Bach versus Chiarenza, but simply the question of the number of works, which seemed to be what you were referring to. I imagined, without going into detail, that you would have understood that distinction.
  74. I did, I did !
  75. Theory alert! If you hate theory STOP READING NOW!!
    This post is Arthur's fault. :)
    This is from Mel Bochner. In accepting what is pretty obvious from this thread (the difficulty of avoiding the figurative in an essentially figurative medium), he writes, "... as it became increasingly apparent that illusionism of some sort was impossible to avoid, it made more sense to exploit it on its own terms ..." He moved to seriality: exploiting the space between pictures. He went on:
    "One result of a method such as seriality tends to be a certain visual complexity uncommon to primary, or single-image art. [Bill Ross, are you smiling?] The usage of conflicting conceptual and visual orders reverses, in often irritating ways, the continuity of time. Often the logic of the structure does not coincide with the structural elements. Contrary to formal demands, forms tend to appear heavy, inert, or clumsy. Redeeming factors are not quickly apparent. Severe, highly artificial, and uncomfortable, the work often appears cold or highly Manneristic.
    "Frustration has become a key response to certain recent art. Frustration because the viewer is looking for a complete "idea" and is foiled. The notion of completion (i.e. self-containment) is at fault. What is thought and what is experienced continually replace each other. Nothing reveals itself without at the same time concealing something else. The concealed is the source of thought. And thought, which we hoped to use to "fill in the gaps," is in itself bottomless or ... incomplete. So every work is only the residue of thought's attempt to simultaneously close itself up and its frustration at not being able to do so. The artwork, whatever "form" it might take, is the visible center of an axis connecting intention and disappointment."​
    That bit in the last paragraph: "The notion of completion (i.e. self-containment) is at fault," is key. It's a better way of getting at what I was trying to say with: "Abstract is what it does."
  76. Bochner is a good reference for our continuing discussion on what is "abstract photography".
    One of his more known photographical abstract works is "Surface Dis/Tension, 1968". Here is a detailed description of how it was made:
    He "photographed a grid receding into space so that, distilled as an image, it appeared perspectically distorted. Taking this photo as a base object, Bochner soaked the print in water, allowing the emulsion to buckle the paper as it dried. He then reshot this processed image both in negative and positive, combining the two versions in the darkroom and thereby creating more layers of photographic strata, before mounting the meta-image on aluminum and trimming the metal to follow the uneven edges of the now thoroughly denatured grid. The final work is a photograph, and yet not a photograph at all: It is an image of the photographic medium being taken to its own material limits, as well as a sculptural, process-based, and Conceptual work of art--the photograph as recorder of abstract ideas.
    "it is often the case with Bochner that an idea appears simultaneously as one thing and its inverse."​
    In most galleries such a work would be labelled as a "mixed media" work, which I certainly would include in our "abstract photography" forum, if camera and photographs are included in the process.

    Julie, I did, despite your warning, try to read the text, but with my limited english literacy I found it highly abstract (sic!) and difficult to follow. I'll try again after a strong cup of expresso.
  77. That bit in the last paragraph: "The notion of completion (i.e. self-containment) is at fault," is key. It's a better way of getting at what I was trying to say with: "Abstract is what it does."​
    And I believe answers my question to you, Julie, by what you meant with your term..."elements aren't talking to each other" in reference to my colorful saucer image. A disappointment even though I agree with you on that. It's pretty colors for sure but what are the other forms in the image doing to address or coalesce that idea or at least take it to a higher place.
    After two cups of coffee I totally understood the quoted theory you posted, Julie.
  78. Tim, I'll try with two cups of expresso, and maybe come back :)
  79. And after the coffee, and referring to the two paragraphs from the Mel Bochner text, above (Julie)

    Concerning the first paragraph on: “seriality tends to be a certain visual complexity uncommon to primary, or single-image art
    - “formal demands”: which formal demands ? Why “formal”.
    - “Redeeming factors”: redeeming for what ?
    - “the work often appears cold or highly Manneristic” - Why is that especially related to seriality and not equally correct for many single-image works ?
    - Bill Ross, who is he ?

    Second paragraph on: "Frustration has become a key response to certain recent art"
    - Hasn't that been the case for all art forms, leaving aside fireman-works of art (l'art pompier) - and yet ?
    - "the viewer is looking for a complete "idea"" - No ! They mostly are not. They might just happen, like the artist, to be looking for some hints about an idea, a sensation, an understanding....
    - "The concealed is the source of thought" - adding to the revealed and the tension between the two.
    - "to use to "fill in the gaps," - only relevant to a "zero-sum game" type of universe, which is not the realm of art, which challenges the borders of understanding and perception - which he maybe refers to by "in itself bottomless or ... incomplete".
    - "The artwork, whatever "form" it might take, is the visible center of an axis connecting intention and disappointment." - or maybe better: highly satisfying infinite small steps towards Nirvana. Where is the frustration ?

    All together, in my view, a text, that is certainly not "theory". Just fairly in-transparent writing, like a happening, where words are written for the experience of them, more than for understanding.
    Don't say I didn't try, despite Julie's warning.
    All the fault of Arthur, it seems :)
    Back to my morning coffee !
    "Abstract is what it does." - just like in all other creative works.
  80. "Dad, I hate war."
    "Why, son?"
    "Because war makes history, and I hate history."
  81. An abstract image for you, Julie, just to make friends :)
  82. the work often appears cold or highly Manneristic” - Why is that especially related to seriality and not equally correct for many single-image works ?​
    Anders, I'm getting a cold and highly manneristic feeling from your last image due to the series (seriality) of those two darker gray forms against a colorless lighter gray background. I'm disappointed in not seeing your intention behind such an image.
    Only two 12 oz. cups of Starbuck's Pike Place Medium Roast I ground and brewed myself to come up with that interpretation.
  83. You put too much into it, Tim. Nothing very complicated or occult about it.
    It is just a obvious abstract image in what ever terms such images have been discussed now for days in this forum.
  84. Tim, here (from Clare Strand's The Betterment Room) is an interesting one for you to consider.
    I claim that it is not an abstract. In fact, I think Clare Strand would be very unhappy if you took it to be an abstract. If you read her description of the project, I think you should be able to see why. It is what it is; it is not an abstract idea or feeling.
    Two similar ones from The Betterment Room, this one, and this one. Again, her explanation of the project should make clear why these pictures, as presented, are not meant as abstract pictures.
  85. I don't think anyone has suggested, that Clare Strands works have much to do with abstract photography. They are examples of surreal photography, including the Betterment series. She is certainly interesting as such.
    Unless, one sees the Betterment room series as documentary and accepts them as an invitation (which she does not intend to give) to travel back to the days of Taylorism, Fordism and American industrial history beginning of last century.
  86. The Betterment series is not surreal.
  87. It is what then ? Documentary ?
    I think this type of ping pong is not very useful to any of us.
    What I think we should do would be doing is to:
    - exchange knowledge and information on what such an image is meant for by the artist and maybe by others who have looked at it and made up an argued opinion.
    - exchange information on our own take on such images : documentary, social commentary, abstract, surrealistic, performance or what ever - "...... is what it does".
    But meanwhile:
    The surreal dimension of the Betterment comes out of her own explanation and the choice of title. As you know the Betterment Room was a real room created in 1912 to further the development of so-called scientific management by studying the movements of workers doing specific repetitive task in the American industry. Taylorism and Fordism were subject to strong resistance from workers and trade unions and were condemned as inhuman. The American Congress organised an infamous Hearing on the subject, which by the way is indeed quite surrealistic, with Winston Taylor defending his 'scientific" approach to increasing workers productivity and achieving control over the work process. Finally, Taylor et co won and the system was generalised in mass-production throughout the World and even Lenin celebrated.
    Many of these images related to the studies and experiments (read George Homans, The Human Group for example) were admired like this, on blacksmith work, or this "Motion test, 1924, that comes from the Constructivists Russian artist Gastev (read about him here).
    When now Clare Strand takes up such themes and technics and even calls it the "Betterment room" we have a direct pointed finger to the event, the place and the time. I would tend to see her images from that series, not as a copying of what was done then, after all here pictures have no link to real work, but are symbols of what human "work" has come to be - an exercise in absurdism.

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