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Nov 13, 2021
What is Abstract Photography?
There is a lot of truth to the old idea that we tend to see the world in terms of what we know about it. The compositions most easily seen are usually those that fit well within the average field of view at a standing height—it’s the way of seeing that we know best. Photography, like any form of art, is meant to tell a story. But it isn’t always obvious what that story is.
The photographer’s aim in creating an abstract piece varies. Perhaps they wanted to highlight an interesting texture, capture a specific combination of hues, or investigate the interplay of light and shadow. Oftentimes, there is no concrete answer; a photographer will simply be taken with the relation of shapes, elements, and light in a scene and be inspired to share this ineffable combination with others. There’s no limit to the fascinating and unusual techniques photographers can use to transform their work into a story.
One of the most common techniques a photographer uses is what is seen via the focal length of the lens. A focal length of 85 mm is commonly used for portraits. Short focal lengths 5-35 mm, taken in a whole scene and are common to cell phones and to a greater degree panoramas. Oftentimes the most effective choice for emphasizing a landscape’s panoramic qualities is to shoot a series of frames at a long focal length with the goal of producing a ‘stitched’ image in a wide aspect ratio. A very wide focal length, or panorama tends to place a strong emphasis on the area immediately surrounding the photographer, giving the observer a sense of “being there”.
Compositions that use focal lengths of 100 mm or more fall well outside classic focal lengths and have the potential to evoke the more abstract qualities of human perception, such as the ability of our brains to combine certain visual stimuli and to isolate others. Our minds have a tremendous ability to focus in on a distant feature while subconsciously excluding much that is within sight. Large focal lengths work much in the same way, showing viewers what we find interesting or important. Therefore, even focal lengths that fall far outside the most ‘natural’ range for our eyes can still produce photographs that are very rooted in relatable experiences of viewing and offer some wonderful creative options for visual storytelling. I like to think of these compositions a miniature landscapes that often escape the causal observer.
What sets abstract photography apart from more conventional styles; you, the buyer, the owner, or the collector are free to decide what it means and how to enjoy it. Abstract wall art can bring a much-needed degree of creativity, intellectualism, and flair to the spaces you inhabit making it a powerful tool for interior design.
What’s Special About Abstract Photography
Abstract photography is more stimulating than many other forms and styles because one has to tap into their own creative faculties. Whether you’re trying to figure out what it is or just what it looks like, you’re putting a lot more effort into understanding it than you would with an ordinary piece. This can make a work of abstract wall art both the visual and intellectual focal point of a room.
People and spaces engage differently with abstract art than they do with more classical styles. Nebulous similarities and associations must be probed to elucidate any sort of meaning or sense of place or location. Maybe it looks like the ripples in a pond or the texture of a large stone; perhaps it resembles an endless forest seen from above. Abstract works are open to continuous reinterpretation by you and any friends, guests, or relatives who see it. Possessing an abstract work over time is like owning many different works or one which changes with the days, the seasons, and your own mood. One could even go so far as to say these pieces have a living quality of their own.
Types of Abstract Photography
Works can be broadly categorized by their compositional approach. Minimalist compositions center around the scarcity of visual elements. Works may feature negative spaces accentuated by the presence of a singular form or various smaller elements dispersed throughout the area. These can be dashes of color, unknown shapes, or anything tangible and definable as some sort of “positive” object. These works are all about the graceful opposition between presence and absence and the interaction of space with volume.
Color or texture or both provide another compositional approach. Bright neons and subtle pastels collide with each other in a battle or harmony. The resulting print is filled with extremely complex yet visually basic relations of hue and size. These pieces appeal to deep and unconscious connections we make between color, space, and feeling. They are a feast for the eyes that unlocks hidden areas of the mind.
Finally, grand panoramas or everyday objects, composed with an extreme focal length, can transform the composition into a story many never noticed. Like a minor narrative within a great epic poem, these snippets of a location develop its character, provide salient details, and encourage contemplation. Rather than giving the big picture, they provide the finer points, and context may become an alluring matter of mystery. These miniature landscapes take on a whole new meaning and feel when the observer realizes the larger context from where they were taken.
How and Where to Hang It
Abstract art is a mental and emotional exercise, so how do you present such an object in a space? Here, we are talking about wall art, so that narrows the options down, but which wall you choose and how you hang it can have a variety of different effects.
First, you’ll need to figure out how a piece relates to its background. Simpler pieces tend to blend into the walls behind them, so framing may be necessary for proper presentation. In some cases, however, placing boundaries on a work might seem to compress or confine it, and it is better instead to let it flow into the room naturally. Generally, if a work is bold enough to speak on its own, you need not frame it. If it’s a more subtle or minimal piece, a frame might help draw proper attention to it.
Similar considerations have to be made with location. Is the piece supposed to be the focus of the room or part of a larger framework? Placing an abstract fine art photograph in a place people gather and can see it, like a living room, dining room, or foyer, ensures people will admire, talk about, and ponder it. It doesn’t have to dominate the space, but placing pieces in hallways, stairways, or even bedrooms can run the risk of having them be ignored, and no art should be made invisible.
Is Bigger Better? Choosing The Right Size of Art
The factor which has the greatest effect on how noticeable a piece is its size. A collection of smaller pieces offers alot to take in. Viewers can shift their gaze from one piece to the next and contemplate how they fit together. These pieces are less expensive and allow you to choose more than one. For those who are true lovers of abstract art, this is the best option, as one singular piece simply won’t be enough.
Singular works tend to have walls to themselves, leaving a great deal of the area around them untouched. A single large piece instantly draws the eye and becomes the focal point of any space. It will spawn conversations, draw viewers closer, and leave a memorable impression. This means the space feels larger and cleaner—a much more minimalist aesthetic.
Coordination and Flow
The last, and perhaps most important consideration when it comes to abstract art is how well it communes with the space it’s in. You’ll know if a piece fits with what’s around it, so don’t be shy about experimenting using augmented reality viewer found on the website, but remember: a piece of art should tie a room together, not put it into disarray.
Consider the style of the space. What kinds of furniture and decor are there? While juxtaposing an abstract work on an opposed design scheme might be interesting and draw further attention to the artwork, the effect will be less pleasing and interesting than when everything is properly coordinated.
Put an orange work on a blue wall, and it will stick out. Matching the core colors of an artwork with the walls or hues of other household items can create a seamless visual flow which ties the whole space together. But this can be interesting too, and having combinations of two or three colors might actually look better than having everything in the same shade.
The right work in the right place can not only revolutionize your space, but fire the imagination as well. Abstract photography combines all that is beautiful and captivating about the real world and the realm of painting. While there are no rules to abstract composition, there are guidelines to how these works should be presented and displayed.
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