Do you have a photograph that, looking back years later, you can say –
“That’s the one which kick started everything. That’s the photo which set me on my photographic journey. That was the instant when my eyes were truly opened.”
I do. I remember it vividly. I’d been in a quagmire, going nowhere fast with my photography and I was in need of some major motivation and discipline. Previous ‘pottering about’ had certainly revealed my desire and affinity for making abstract images, but it hadn’t yielded anything I considered substantial or worthwhile in terms of making any real progress. Bemoaning this fact to a photographer friend of mine, I was then encouraged to ‘try doing a study or work with a theme’. Seeming like an eminently sensible idea and one which I shamelessly should have thought of before, I chose ‘Shadows’ as my topic and set about getting serious!
That very afternoon I grabbed my camera and began looking about the house for something to photograph – with shadows. I looked at our lounge chairs by the window and thought I had hit the jackpot. As the sun streamed in through the narrow venetian blinds, fine shadow lines obligingly spilled across the furniture. I remember thinking ‘this is perfect’ and excitedly began my photo shoot. Not satisfied with just the single colour of the chair, I quickly purloined the bright red cushion and sat that atop the chair too, experimenting with different positions and angles.
‘Casting Shadows’ is the end result of the very first photo shoot in my very first ‘study’. It was all the motivation I needed. Deciding ten was a good round number, I set myself the goal of taking nine more images in the study and I would create these from items found in my immediate, domestic environment.
At the time, I didn’t have any intention other than to create as varied and interesting a set of images as I possibly could, so I was content with including very linear works alongside those focusing on curves, as well as brightly coloured subjects off-setting more muted and monochromatic approaches.
Amongst all of these disparate explorations, the first seeds of my ‘Abstracted Reality’ journey were planted. With the beauty of hindsight, as I look back now at all of the images in my ‘Shadow Study’, I can see the kernel of ideas and hints of design and style which have ultimately shaped and influenced my future abstract work.
A Touch of the Mysterious
Two very quirky images in the ‘Shadow Study’ point to my penchant for a touch of the mysterious and a love of the unconventional. ‘Bent out of Shape’ and ‘Ghostly Blue’ are good examples of my desire to explore objects in a new way, taking them out of their usual context and frame of reference.
Playing with Geometry and Repetition
Incorporating elements of repetition and deciding how to present varied or opposing shapes and patterns within a single image has always intrigued me. I love experimenting and seeing how different shapes play off against each other, or how a small alteration can impact and affect the overall design, with either positive or negative consequences.
In ‘Off Centre’ I recall spending a great morning in our back yard just playing with a rather unusual wine rack. Placing the larger and smaller circles in the frame became more like a dance in the end, as shadows would merge and overlap in different combinations with every small step I took.
‘Dishrack in Repose’ and ‘Rakish Charm’, capture some of my first forays into exploring the joys of repeating lines and patterns.
Eyeing up the Smaller Details
Another characteristic of my abstract work is to get up very close to an object or focus on just a small part of it. Looking back, ‘Umbrella Tree’ displays this perfectly. Here, I made the decision to focus my attention on a small section of the umbrella and used the shadow lines to create a rather skeletal-looking tree. Just like ‘Casting Shadows’, stark colour juxtapositions feature strongly.
‘Rawhide’ highlights the textural features of the same lounge chair which I used in ‘Casting Shadows’. In a strange way, all of the tiny, crinkled details reminded me of an elephant’s tough skin.
Balance and Proportion
I love to incorporate simplicity of line and form in my abstracts. Pairing back an object to reveal its beauty and elegance of shape and design has been a fascination for me for many years.
Conveying this in an image relies a great deal on achieving just the right mix of balance and proportion, of knowing where and how to place complementary or opposing elements within the frame to achieve a pleasing and cohesive whole.
I can see my early attempts at this in these two images. ‘Around the Basket’ and ‘Imbibing the Light’ both share a minimalist approach and focus on the placement and alignment of simple curves.
Keeping it Simple
As I look back over my very first Study, I’m struck by how early my sense of personal style began to assert itself. In this collection of ten images I can see several characteristics which have carried through into my later abstract compositions.
For me, most notable is the apparent simplicity of design. These pictures tend to contain very little and all emphasise a graphic, stark compositional structure. This approach has stayed with me throughout my photographic journey – it fuels my curiosity and informs every photo shoot I undertake.
I have very fond memories of my ‘Shadow Study’. While several other studies were to follow on numerous and varied themes, I can truly say that this was the one which really fired my imagination and set me on a wonderful path of abstract discovery.
If you’d like to find out a little more about my journey into the world of abstract photography and how I got started, please visit ‘The Birth of Abstracted Reality’.