photography + abstraction: a note

One of the strands  in  my style  of photography in and around poodlewalks  is to shift away from the literal and transparent.  My name for this shift is abstraction--ie.,  finding ways to underscore  the photograph as surface,  as flat; even though there is an optical space within the photograph. This is often filed by photographic educators under  'ways of seeing'  that depend on, and are shaped by  habit and convention.   

An example of the photograph as surface: 


On the traditional understanding of photography--representation based on linear perspective that is clear and literal-- the grasses or foliage appear as obstructions to a clear view of the scene. From the perspective of abstraction  the shift is away from  a concern with illusionistic representational space the image  has an equal intensity of pictorial incident across its  whole surface. The emphasis is on the two dimensionality of the photograph.   

Abstract Photography book launched

At the opening of the Abstraction x 5 exhibition, which includes abstractions by   Graeme Hastwell, Beverley Southcott, Stuart Murdoch,  Adam Dutkiewicz and myself,  we launched the Abstract Photography  book. The exhibition and launch was yesterday  at the Light Gallery in Adelaide to a full house.  

The  book was written  by Dutkiewicz and myself, and it recovers the lost modernist abstractions made in the 1960s by Adelaide photographers, has a couple of essays by Adam and myself and a number of  abstract photographic  images by Adam  and myself. 

The full title of the book is Abstract Photography: Re-Evaluating Visual Poetics in Australian Modernism and Contemporary Practice, and it was published by  Moon Arrow Press. It was the  lo-fi version--the artist proof of concept--- was launched. The general reaction was that the history, text and contemporary  images in the book hung together well to form a cohesive whole. We'd got there. 

bark abstract

This is an abstract of the trunk of a river gum in the reserve across the road from the studio  in Encounter Bay,  Victor Harbor

The tree  that had been bought down from Arkaroola by Suzanne's mother as a seedling back  in 1982 . It was planted in the reserve and it is now a solid tree.  

I am fascinated by the river gum's bark.  It is quite different from the local river gums in terms of  both texture and colour. 

I've taken a number of photos over  the Xmas break with a digital camera--a  Sony NEX-7--- mostly as a study  for a large format shoot. I am thinking about  using the 5x4 Linhof  in an early morning shoot.

abstractions

My b+w 8x10 negatives are on the way back to the studio after being processed by Chris Reid at Blanco Negro in Sydney. It seems that most of them are okay in terms of exposures and that only two sheets were fogged.

I've been going through some of my 2011 digital files  to dump the ones that are no good and to look  for ideas for the next 8x10 shoot. I was using a cheap Kodak EasyShare camera then  and most of the work t was playing around with abstractions  of dried saltponds  on the rock floor  at my feet. 

These salt pond abstracts are interesting  visual ideas, but they are in locations that  are too difficult to carry  an 8x10 monorail to.They belong to the sea abstract book. 

There is little work on visual  abstractions  in Australian modernism, even though modernism was meant to be the turn away from  visual figuration to abstraction. 

Abstraction, as it were, was a privileged space of visual modernism (eg., Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich). These artists made anti-materialist   claims that actively cultivated particualr forms of subjective transcendence from the practices of everyday life. It was  a retreat into idealism--self, mood, dream and spirituality---that ignored the social experience of abstraction.

A photographic abstrction needs to be premised on  photography's indexical  presence--the index is the name for the inscription of presence that appears to deny the evacuation of the figural in the abstraction.   

sea abstract #2

The weather has been stormy along the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula these last few days. So I have sat on the rocks on the edge of the boat ramp at Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor with a digital camera making abstract photos of the water.

I've done this before and I wanted to experiment with no sunlight and the early morning sunlight. Looking at the uploaded  images on the computer screen afterwards I can see that sunlight works  best.  The lack of sunlight makes the image very drab and flat.

I've started   a little series  of sea abstractions in the form of a DIY book.

sea abstract #1

The stormy weather finally has gone from Victor Harbor.   Today started  with a glorious spring morning--crisp, clear and still.  As there  was no early morning  cloud cover,  so the 8x10 black and white shoot that I had in mind was  a nonstarter.  I needed soft or diffused early morning light for the shoot.

So I took a walk along the boat ramp  near Whalers Inn  Resort at sunrise in order to  photograph the  sea at the edge of breakwater in Encounter Bay.  I had some abstractions in mind,  which I wanted to explore in the early morning light:

The sea is gentle in this part of Encounter Bay,  and so I was able to sit on the rocks at the water's edge without worrying that I'd be swamped  by every  seventh  wave.  I didn't have that much time  before the sunlight became too bright and the highlights on the white caps of the waves blew out. 

rockface: abstract 1

This is pretty much how I see the rockface in the coastal landscape just west of  Victor Harbor and around Kings Head.

It is  the constantly changing play of light on the rock forms along the coastline that caught my eye and intrigued me. I tend to see the rockface in terms of abstractions---organic abstractions, as it were. Abstract modernism in this  form makes sense to me as a photogrpaher. 

More here