Capturing the essence

For those who visit here often, you will know that I don’t practice just one type of photography. In fact, I feel like I am constantly searching for a new way of seeing and photographing. For work photography, the constraints are obvious and practical. However, for my person photography, there seems to be an unlimited number of options.

One direction that I have been increasingly exploring is abstraction. One can argue that by its nature, photography is a type of abstraction, since it is not the thing but rather a representation of that thing. Strip away colour to make a monochrome image and you have further abstracted the image. Reducing depth of field, making extreme exposure choices or manipulating other camera controls can result in a less “real” image. However, as long as the subject is still represented well enough to be recognizable, then I suppose the photo isn’t a true abstract image. I’m not sure that really matters…

It might be more helpful to think in terms of degrees of abstraction. I guess my point is that there is spectrum of abstraction, rather than a binary, one might say black and white, choice about if an image is abstract or not. At least, I tend to think of my images this way; abstracted, rather than abstract. I want to suggest the feeling of the thing without having to show you the thing. Or as Alan Thurston recently wrote: Remove the reality. Retain the essence.

The latest way to abstract images that I have been exploring is intentional camera movement (ICM). I won’t go into how to do this, as there must be countless tutorials available. I will just say that as I have been refining my technique, I am finding ICM is an interesting way to make images in my part of world and particularly along the water’s edges, where I spend a lot of my time. The trick for me has been trying to achieve what Alan suggests, to remove the reality, but retain the essence.

NB: Images captured with a Fujifilm GFX50S or X-Pro3 camera and a wide variety of Fujinon and legacy lenses.

2 Replies to “Abstracted”

  1. Lovely post. Don. I’m quite interested in ICM, and do like your approach, which is suggesting some new ways to me. I’m doing mine on film, which adds an extra dimension of pain in that every shutter click costs around 50p! The last couple of tries have been with redscaled (reversed) film, which gives me a cheap way of shooting at EI 25 or so. Add a ND8 filter and I can get exposures of 1-4 seconds in winter woodland. I’ve worked out how to find interesting images in the woods (eg this twitter thread, but I’ve been less successful with buildings. Thank you for giving me some hints!

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