Black-and-white photography genres (2 of 2)

The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real”

— Lucien Freud

This is the twelfth publication of a series in which I’m addressing the topic of black-and-white. The series includes posts and videos that can be easily located by using the tag “learning-black-and-white” either in the search box above, or by directly clicking on the tag name at the bottom of this post.  Also, here is a link to the entire series so far.

Figure 1. “The Power of Imagination”  © Enrique Peláez

In the latest post I started a discussion about different photography genres that I usually cover in my black-and-white photography, I shared my ideas on why certain genres are more suitable to be presented on black-and-white than others. If you haven’t read it please take a look here.

Also, in the previous post I mentioned  that black-and-white photography can go across several genres, so I started discussing landscape black-and-white photography.  This occasion I’d like to discuss a different genre that I consider is  also very appropriate for black-and-white: abstract photography.

According to John Suler — photographer an author of the book “Psychology of the Digital Age: Humans Become Electric” and the essay “Photographic Psychology” — an abstract photograph draws away from that which is realistic or literal. It draws away from natural appearances and recognizable subjects in the actual world

Figure 2. “Melting Reality I” © Enrique Peláez

To get started on this topic, I’d like to say that for me abstract photography should concentrate on the core elements of the image as opposed to being focused on the subject itself. By concentrating on these core elements, viewers will turn their attention to what I call the “essentials” of the image: forms, textures, patterns, light, that are exactly the same type of visual elements that we traditionally look for when visualizing black-and-white subjects — for me every well composed black-and-white image has a little bit of an abstract essence.

Now, the challenge, not just with abstract photography, but in general with abstract art, is that it should convey a story, so this may probably sound a little bit like an oxymoron, right? How to convey a story without a subject? Well, the point is that in abstract photography there is a subject, just that the subject is subtly suggested by the interaction of forms, textures, light. And, probably more important: the “physical subject” has been drawn away from recognizable subjects in the actual world.  In my opinion,  an abstract work without a vision (e.g. a story) to convey is pointless.

When done right, abstract photography allows photographers to turn an otherwise ordinary subject into a piece of art. So, many times an abstract photographs can be created merely by accident, but you don’t want put your creation process to the mercy of chance, so some of the most common techniques to find interesting abstracts are: architecture close-ups, macro photography — explore trying to get close to ordinary objects, explore different perspectives while getting close, explore to illuminate ordinary objects in different ways while getting close — reflections on water are also a great way to create interesting abstracts, smoke, light painting, close-ups of nude bodies, etc. So, these are just a few ideas, but when it comes to abstract photography there are no limits, so let your creativity explode!

Figure 3. “Darkness II” © Enrique Peláez

Figures 1,2, and 3 are abstract examples that I’ve created. In all of them the “real subject” has been relegated to second plane, creating a new visual proposition that tells a story that has nothing to do with the actual subject. If you interested,  here is a link to my abstract work in my website.

Obviously, the genres covered in this and the previous posts are not the only ones suitable for black-and-white photography, I’ll keep covering some more genres in subsequent posts such as street photography, portraits, wildlife, and others, but for now I’d like to switch gears a little bit and start introducing some other topics that can be equally important to your formation as a fine art black-and-white photographer. In my next post I’ll talk about social media as a way to promote your work.

I do appreciate your comments and suggestions. If you are interested in more information regarding the making of my images, as well as general information about black-and-white photography, please subscribe to my blog to receive automatic notifications every time I publish a new post.

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