Object Abstraction

My photo series “Abstraction” was my first experience using photography as a form of abstract fine art. In the past, I’ve tried street photography, portraiture, landscape photography and event photography—but nothing spoke to me the way abstraction did.

In this project, I used a constructed studio environment for three of my five images and used portable studio lights in an uncontrolled environment for the other two. I used gels for all but one image, for which I improvised using a pink plastic ruler and my on-camera flash. In Photoshop, I primarily used cropping and rotation to decontextualize the subject of each photo.

All images were taken in horizontal format but were either cropped or rotated to be vertical. In my personal concept of abstraction, I believe lack of context and deep confusion are necessary, which is why I chose vertical format. The eyes are horizontally formatted, so placing an element vertically is immediately opposite of the natural. In addition to that, vertical images allowed me to remove my own awareness of the context and focus on the images as shapes, textures and forms, rather than the objects they were in the photographs.

Above are the images I constructed in the studio environment. For these images, I used naked strobe lights (without reflectors or grids) and gels in the colors pink and blue. I carefully oriented the lights for each shot to increase contrast and color payoff in the image. “Line” (left) is an image of a pink clear plastic ruler placed on its side with skillfully placed lights to hide the shadows of numbers on the white back drop. “Smear” (middle) is pink lotion spread onto a piece of glass which was then placed on a white background which allowed for depth of shadow and color under the surface of the lotion. “Terrain” (right) is blue kinetic sand molded to create dynamic shadows and color contrast with opposing lights in order to create the appearance of a satellite image of alien terrain.

These two images were taken outside of the studio environment. “Etch” (left) was taken using a portable strobe light and a blue gel. The image’s subject is a green “No Smoking” sign taken extremely close-up, then cropped and oriented to emphasize the etched texture of the letterforms. “Light” (right) was a complicated shot. When I went out shooting, I took the wrong color pink gel with me. Concerned that it would seriously compromise the aesthetic integrity of the series, I used the pink ruler as my gel by placing it over the on-camera flash to colorize the scene. Once I was sure the hue was the same, I took a picture of a lighting fixture in a stairwell using a telephoto lens. I then cropped the image down to the part where the yellow of the light combined with the pink of the flash in the section of the fixture where it was most dim. The result is the beautiful gradient sunset of “Light.”

The scale and spatial relationship of the objects in this series is nearly impossible to tell without explanation, which again goes back to my personal tenet of decontextualization for abstraction. Using ordinary objects, I was able to transform them into unrecognizable artistic forms.

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