iPhone Photography_Moving into Abstraction

Apple 3Gs iPhone photograph of Stairway Detail

For my third installment of pics from the Apple 3Gs iPhone I thought I’d venture into the world of abstraction.

The way the human brain works is that it looks for the familiar in what it sees. For the sake of this discussion we can refer to the familiar as the subject. The eyes move quickly over a photograph so as to locate a familiar point of reference that enables the viewer to identify the subject of the photograph and then to understand the context into which that subject has been placed. Let’s look at how changing one element in a picture can produce a very different context.

Little Johnny is standing alone on the beach on a beautiful sunny day. This image might suggest the joy of youth and a long and positive life ahead. An alternative scenario might feature Little Johnny standing alone on the beach with dark storm clouds approaching from behind. You could easily read this image, possibly influenced by the day’s doom and gloom in the media, as a metaphor for dark days ahead. But what happens to the viewing experience when there’s no recognizable subject?

Apple 3Gs iPhone Abstract Fence Detail Photograph

From my point of view abstraction simply means presenting elements of the world in such a way that the viewer sees the abstraction before they begin to identify what has actually been photographed. In effect the abstraction becomes the subject of the photograph. One way to move towards abstraction, and produce a more visually interesting image, is to move in closer and base your composition upon the design elements inherent to the subject. In this case the viewer will notice the design (e.g. line, shape, texture, color, balance or shadow) before they think to identify the subject (e.g. interesting pattern on a fence), thereby breaking there usual way of seeing, processing and understanding visual stimuli. As a consequence the photographer has allowed them to think less literally and provided them with a heightened visual experience.

Each of the images that illustrate this article was made by emphasizing particular elements, within larger scenes, that attracted my attention while scouting for locations with my photographer friend, Bill Poon. The vibrant green of a stone staircase, the textured patterns of paint forming in bubbles on a metal fence and the circular anti-slip dots, laid our in a series of straight lines, on a staircase.

Apple 3Gs iPhone Abstract Photograph of a Hardening Covering on a Stairway

Photography is a wonderful activity and there’s no reason why the production of art can’t be fun. The journey into abstraction is one way by which photography becomes art.

All images in this article have undergone fairly significant processing in Adobe Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop CS4. I don’t plan to process all my iPhone images in this way, but the nature of these images indicated to me that their journey would not be complete without a little hocus pocus. What can I tell you, it was fun.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography
Glenn Guy