Abstract photography is a means of distorting reality. Presenting elements of the real world in a way that forces people to rethink the way they perceive their surroundings. The aim is to encourage people to appreciate an image based on what they can see, not on what the subject is. My ten pictures consist of household objects and body parts taken and edited in a way that makes them ambiguous. I enjoyed experimenting with the effect of colour and juxtaposing contrasting textures in particular.
the white paper test
This task consisted of taking 24 unique photos of one piece of white paper. The paper could be crumpled, folded and twisted but not cut or torn. We used soft light and spotlights to cast shadows and illuminate the paper, this allowed us to take completely different pictures simply by altering the position of a light. Coloured filters were also available, these helped to create a varying moods in each photo.
Lorenz's work is immensely geometric. She uses paper to form angular shapes which are sometimes contradicted by her use of bright colour, as the lines are regimented and the colour eccentric in comparison. Lorenz also uses perspective to create a three dimensional impression, this is aided by her use of shadows and varying shades of colour. The photographs are simplistic but have hidden intricacies that create a focal point, these make Lorenz's images puzzle-like and ensures people notice new aspects of her compositions each time they look at them.
Bruguiere creates movement and fluidity within his pictures through the use of spherical lines and shadows. The absence of colour accentuates the shapes formed by the intertwining pieces of paper and enables a contrast to be seen between the light and dark of each image. Bruguiere's photograph's resemble mazes of floating light and twisting shapes.
I was inspired by the simplicity of Lorenz's work as well as the rounded lines favoured by Bruguiere. This led to images composed of uncomplicated, twisting shapes, outlined by shadows cast by the paper models. I chose to present the photos in black and white as I feel it emphasises the change in tone between the shadowed areas and those in direct light, making each image, as a whole, more effective- similarly to Lorenz's strict use of colour and Bruguiere's monochrome compositions.
My original image was one taken in response to Lorenz's and Bruguiere's bodies of work involving the use of paper to create abstract shapes and patterns. To begin with I painted on a printed copy of the image using acrylic paints. This contrasted with the black and white print and helped accentuate the three dimensionality. Next I covered a section with bleach that I proceeded to tear and scratch at with scissors to create a raised texture and introduce another colour component. The torn section contrasts with the smooth, rounded lines of the photograph as it is messy and disordered. I also created two prints of the image using an acetate version of my photo. The first was developed by painting on the developer and the second was a solarisation print.
Painted on developer
I further developed the original image on photoshop by layering a second picture on top of the version I had painted on. I used a black and white photo I had taken in response to Lorenz and Bruguiere to contrast with the brightly coloured paint and create varying tones. The addition of the second picture also adds intricacies as the lines of the two layers cross over making the composition more complex. I also increased the vibrancy of the colours to emphasise the shapes and make the image as a whole, more eye catching. Another final version involved the layering of the print I did where in which i painted in the developer. On photoshop I then changed the image to black and white and adjusted the brightness, contrast, opacity and colour balance to enhance certain shapes.
Pierre Cordier discovered the chemigram process in 1956. It involves placing exposed photographic paper in either developer or fix with a resist such as washing up liquid or tape placed on top. This means that the exposed paper will turn black when placed in developer or white when put in fix, apart from where the resist is sat. This creates abstract prints that can be manipulated by alternating the paper from chemical to chemical, whist washing off the resist in water at different points. Below are two pieces from Cordier's chemigram series.
I struggled to create chemigram's as effective as Cordier's. I think in order to produce more interesting images I need to experiment with different mediums as the resist as well as the amount of time the paper is covered. If I was to repeat this task I would spend more time thinking about the outcome I wish to achieve and the means of reaching it, whilst devising more inventive methods.
Bill Jacobson is a renowned landscape and portrait photographer, known for his use of blur to distort his subjects. Jacobson's portraits explore themes of mortality and fragility in terms of the american AIDS epidemic spanning through the 80s and 90s. The defocused, ghostly images represent the futile task of capturing a persons true self both through the medium of photography and in terms of memory. Jacobson's intention was tragically relevant during the AIDS crisis as thousands of families struggled to come to terms with the loss of loved ones and the exasperation endured when memories of them started to fade. As well as taking inspiration from events at the time, Jacobson was largely influenced by the past. He talks of photos found at flea markets and the 'layers of time' hidden within them, each revealing a different memory, person and place. Although this sounds sentimental, Jacobson saw the darker, underlying themes of death and illness in these images which further contributed to his production of the series, Interim Portraits.
Before editing my pictures they were less effective and had few similarities to Jacobson's work, however I used photoshop to alter the brightness and exposure which in turn gave the people in the images the ghostly distortion characteristic of Jacobson. I enjoyed this task as the process and product is simple and yet the images are powerful.
Blumenfeld was a german fashion photographer in the 50s. His work mainly consisted of pictures of glamorous women adorned in expensive clothing and jewellery however, experimentation in the darkroom and with glass led to the formation of unprecedented images. Blumenfeld was greatly influenced by the Dada art movement which strived to rebel against and comment on the oppression of the proletariat. The distortion of not only the faces and forms of his models but the societal perception of beauty was Blumenfeld's contribution to the fight against materialism and the societal pressures pushed on each of us to fulfil a stereotype.
For my further development I used photoshop and props to manipulate the images, distorting the models face, similarly to Jacobson and Blumenfeld. Some of the edits were difficult to achieve as they required me to use new tools on photoshop. However, I feel as though I could have challenged myself more by producing a series of complementary images instead of multiple different ones that were created using various techniques.
Leiter is known particularly for his fashion photography in the 1950s and 60s however some of his lesser known work consists of vibrant street shots featuring people partially hidden by things like shop windows and car doors. His images have an air of mystery as the identities of his subjects are never revealed, instead they blend into their surroundings, becoming part of the cityscape.
I enjoyed taking pictures in response to Leiter's work because it was challenging. I found it difficult taking pictures of people unaware, moving through the motions of their day as they often spotted me with my camera which then ruined the natural image I was trying to capture.
my abstraction response
My first strand experiments with the idea of abstraction in real life. Rather than taking an image and manipulating it, I will explore the different ways in which a feature of normality can be displayed ambiguously. Barry Lewis discovered his interest in photography whilst working as a chemistry teacher. After two years spent at the Royal College he pursued a career in photojournalism which created opportunities for him to travel the world and meet new people within the industry. Lewis' series, Visual Noise, features vibrant images and shapes formed by components found in everyday life such as peeling paint and road markings. He favours digital cameras as they allow him to easily manipulate the images he creates and creates opportunities to incorporate other mediums such as film and music. Lewis states that his aim as an artist is to 'make stories of quality and purpose'.
When creating my response to Lewis' work, my main aim was to replicate the colour and shapes featured in his pictures. I found this difficult as it required me to look at my surroundings in a different way. I had to be more objective and see things as colours and shapes rather than familiar objects.
My second strand involves the manual manipulation of images using household items. By painting over people's faces I remove part of their identity and create a mystery for the viewer as to who is hidden. Naomi Vona is an Italian artist/photographer from Italy who experiments with painting, drawing and sticking things on old photographs. Her colourful additions modernise the, often portraits, that Vona finds in secondhand shops. She states that her work is driven by her 'fascination with the past' and the way in which she is able to express herself through it. By outlining certain aspects of the black and white pictures with colourful shapes and lines Vona attracts the attention of the viewer, causing them to concentrate on something that may have otherwise been ignored in our fast-paced world.
I enjoyed producing a response to Vona's work as it made me concentrate on what I was doing more and think ahead about what I wanted the final outcome to be. It is also gave me an opportunity to be more creative however I struggled to think of interesting and new ways to paint the portraits. If I was to do this task again I would incorporate other methods and mediums such as collage.
My third strand explores movement and how it alters the body, particularly the face. Francesca Woodman was an american photographer who created portraits that presented the relationship between her body and mind. Woodman is often blurred in her pictures, communicating the idea of disappearance whilst simultaneously being very much present. Artist Jenny Saville and photographer Glen Luchford collaborated in a series that investigated how female bodies can be presented realistically, free from photoshop and the ideal thrust upon women by society, to such an extreme that they are unrecognisable.
After experimenting with my three strands I reached the conclusion that the photos I produced in repsonse to Tamara Lorenz and Francis Bruguiere best communicated the theme of abstraction as opposed to the three ideas above. My development was initially going to be photos inspired by my second and thrid strands however the work I produced was unoriginal and unchallenging. I am going to focus on the presence of light and shade in particular and the effect shadows have on the perspective of an image. To develop my response to Lorenz and Bruguire I am going to experiment with other materials, colour and lighting.
First response-The white paper test
For this response I created shapes out of white paper, bending, folding and sticking in order to manipulate it. My aim was to create a variety of paper 'sculptures' that would throw different shadows onto the background. I found that I could also alter the shape of shadows cast by adjusting the positioning of the paper in response to the light source. I enjoyed producing the pictures for this response as it encouraged me to look for several ways in which I could present the same pieces of paper, this forced me to be more creative in order to make my compositions different and interesting. My first response is inspired by not only by Lorenz and Bruguiere's work but also by Jaroslav Rossler's use of light and dark in his pictures. The below series of images feature far more cylindrical shapes, contrasting with the pictures I produced when I first did the white paper task, and this is very much due to the influence of Rossler.
The above images feature in a series by Rossler
When editing my pictures I found that they tended to look best in black and white as it exagerated the contast between the light and shadow which also helped distance the images from reality, appearing more abstract.
For theses images I cut out shapes from my pictures in response one and altered the colour, brightness, saturation, etc. I then pasted the same image on a new page several times, arranging the shapes into geometric patterns. Work by Anne Senstad inspired me to experiment with shape and colour when forming patterns for this response.
Above are images by Senstad
Second response- Household objects
For my second response I collected household items such as string, paper clips, fuse wire and tooth picks. I manipulated them for example by bending the paper clips and wire. My main aim was to arrange the objects so that they cast interesting shadows and were transfigured. I found this response hard as I struggled to present the items as abstract. However, I discovered that the wire and paper clips were effective as they were malleable and so I could create a variety of curling shapes and therefore a variety of sinuous silhouettes.
When editing these images my goal was to emphasise the shadows and to create the illusion that they were part of the items as opposed to there being two disconnected components.
I edited these pictures by layering the same images on top of itself to create a double exposure effect. I also experimented with colour to differentiate between the separate layers by creating contrast and to once again play with the idea of shadow.
response three- acetate prints
I chose to experiment with acetate in this response in order to project coloured shadows, ideally to create an effect similar to one created by stained glass windows. This contrasts with my other two responses as majority of my final edits were in black and white. However, I found that projecting the acetate prints were not effective as the colour appeared washed out on camera and the same happened when casting white light through the prints. I then experimented with gel filters that I positioned over the light, whilst this worked better I preferred the images I produced in response one.
When editing these pictures I enhanced the vibrancy and contrast. I feel this worked best with the first image because the acetate structure stands out more from the background and so the different shapes are more defined, making the image more effective.
Ideas for my final peice
I selected the below images as they feature angular shapes and bold contrasts. My original inspiration was the ''The white paper test' and work by Lorenz and Bruguiere. I liked the idea of transforming something that we use in our everyday lives (paper) into something unrecognisable. I enjoy experimenting with different shapes, angles and colours and found that paper allowed me to do this best in comparison to other materials such as wire. Although most of the images are in colour, the fourth I made black and white to enhance the contrast between the shadow and light. I created repetitive patterns in three of the images because I felt it distanced the paper sculptures from reality even more, making them unidentifiable despite the featured material being a key part of our lives. I found creating unique images each time difficult especially when editing as I found I was drawn to the same processes each time and so I had to challenge myself to be creative and to think outside of the box. Overall I think that the first image, of the acetate sculpture, is the most successful. The colour and light shining through the translucent material adds a new component to the image that the others lack and so, for my final piece I am going to use acetate as my main medium.
I'm going to develop ideas for my final piece by focussing on using acetate and by taking inspiration from the work of Kate Jackling. I like the strength of colour in my first picture above and the angular lines of both the acetate and it's shadow, by exploring this further I will be able to combine my initial idea, 'the white paper task' with colour and light. Kate Jackling is a UK product photographer who plays with colour, shadows and geometric shapes as a means of displaying items in a more interesting and intriguing light. We live in a world with consumerism at it's centre, the aim is to make the most money in the fastest time and that doesn't always involve a focus on presentation and making things look beautiful, however Jackling manages this, which is rare in the fast paced 21st century. Before I took photos for my final piece I selected images that I had already taken to print on acetate. I looked for bright colours and defined shapes or patterns and edited them to emphasise their vibrancy and contrasts.
Below are images by Jackling
When editing my selects my aim was to intensify the colour of the acetate shapes to make each image more effective and eye catching. I also rotated the images as I felt the altered perspective distanced them further from identifiable structures, turning them into almost patterns and making each picture more abstract.