Abstract Landscape Photography

Often these are images that hint at a location, are symbolic in their mood by the use of line and colour, and are wholly open to interpretation. Abstract photography contains mystery and ambiguity, it is visually stimulating, reactive emotionally, and at times psychologically indecipherable. Light, colour, and form play an important part in abstract photograph


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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…

  • Patterns
  • Textures.
  • Angles
  • Proximity (closeness and 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).
  • 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.

‘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. Even so abstracts are sometimes recognisable as real world objects or scenes.


In the early 1920’s Alfred Steiglitz developed the photographic theory of ‘Equivalence’, which was later expanded by Minor White. (see photographer studies for more).

This concept of photography is the use of abstract symbolic imagery to evoke emotion, feeling, mood and the psychological self. It is a contemplative, transcendental form of image making, often influenced by religion, spiritualism or sexuality. The image is a visual metaphor for a ‘state of being’, it is central to expressive creativity in photography. Through line, colour, lighting, form the photograph mirrors the subliminal, it arouses the senses and wakens the psyche. Compositionally the photograph is an allegory, metaphor or symbol “for something that is beyond the subject photographed”. Often containing suggestive powers that may direct the viewer into a specific feeling, state or place within himself.

Subjects such as water, clouds, the sea are constantly metamorphosing – a sequence of images of the same subject can suggest a number of emotions and speculations, by a change in form, colour and reflective qualities. It is using the visual world, reality, to express an abstract concept.

The photograph becomes a mirror of psyche, it is a source of stimulation and arouses sensations and emotions from the viewer. Which may indeed differ from person to person.

PSA Journal 1963 Vol.29 No7 p.17 – 21 – Minor White


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