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Abstract images are conceived or imagined outside of ‘reality’. They can encompass a huge variety of subject matter, take us out of our comfort zone, make us question what we see, or invite us to enter another realm.

First Contact - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
First Contact – inspired by distant galaxies and nebulae

Not the Usual Frames of Reference

In abstract photography, often there aren’t the usual frames of reference for the viewer; they’re not looking at anything immediately recognisable or discernible. This lack of context in which to evaluate an image is one of the reasons why abstract photography can be so challenging and equally enthralling!

The subject matter is often implied or suggested rather than overtly and literally presented.

Golden Spirals - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Golden Spirals – an enigma!

‘Golden Spirals’ is a good example of this, with the final photograph being completely removed and unrecognisable from the original subject matter. If curiosity gets the better of you and you’d like to know how I created this image ‘in camera’, check out my Exposed #2 Article.

Gaining Visual Understanding and Satisfaction

As abstract photography is non-representational and the intent is not to reflect or convey anything ‘concrete’ or ‘real’, the photographer must rely on other facets of composition and structure to give meaning and substance to the work.

Viewers must be able to gain visual satisfaction and understanding from the skilful construction and manipulation of shapes and patterns into a pleasing whole.

Photographers will generally emphasise lines and curves, colours, textures, geometrical forms and their relationship to, and interaction with one another. Thus, the internal structure and intrinsic form of an abstract photograph are hugely important.

Examining Form and Structure

In the following images, you’ll see how I use these different elements to create my abstracts and provide the crucial, underlying compositional structure.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Follow the Yellow Brick Road – lining things up

‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ uses repeating lines and angular patterns to provide cohesion across the three Triptych panels.

Colour Cathedral - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Colour Cathedral – curving arches

As the title suggests, the magnificent curving arches found in old cathedrals was the inspiration behind ‘Colour Cathedral’. If you’d like a behind the scenes look at how I created this image ‘in camera’, please read my Exposed #1 Article.

Colour Contours - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Colour Contours – playing with colour and shape

In ‘Colour Contours’ the colours play an integral part in the composition, offsetting the uniformity and repetition of line with their semi-random flow across the image.

Ingrained - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Ingrained – texture to the fore

Swirling and rippling textures give ‘Ingrained’ a sense of organic movement and growth.

Prismatic - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Prismatic – interconnections of shape and geometry

Featuring bold geometric patterns, ‘Prismatic’ uses clearly defined areas of shape and colour to provide a strong, structural framework.

Cascade - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Cascade – incorporate movement in the shot

Another common technique employed by abstract photographers is to include movement within the image. This can be achieved in a number of ways from using a panning action to a zoom burst. You can have the subject move or move your camera, or even both. Choosing a more indistinct and ‘amorphous’ interpretation can open up many additional creative possibilities.

Mystifying rather than Explanatory

All photography works on an instinctive and subconscious level, but more-so with abstracts. When we look at these types of images we connect on an emotional level and don’t necessarily have a rational or logical response. The images are suggestive rather than direct, mystifying rather than explanatory.

Tulip - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Tulip – like looking at liquid gold

A great deal is left up to the imagination of both the artist and the viewer, and this, ultimately, is where the power of abstract photography lies. We can express a truly unique vision.

The Triptych Connection

Over the Shoulder - Abstract Art by Jane Trotter
Over the Shoulder – extra freedom in the triptych format

As you will have seen, many of my abstracts are in fact Triptychs. I love working in this genre and enjoy the extra freedom and creativity the three panel format affords me. My Exposed #3 Article reveals the subject matter behind ‘Over the Shoulder’.

If you’d like to know more about how I approach creating my Triptychs and learn some of my tips and tricks, please visit ‘The Art of Creating a Triptych’ and ‘How to Make a Triptych’, which will give you some ideas on composition and design.

You can find more information on the subject of abstract photography in my articles, What Makes a Good Abstract Photograph and the Top 10 Reasons for taking Abstract Photos.

About the Author

Jane Trotter is an abstract photographer living in Dunedin, New Zealand. Reimagining everyday objects found around the home, Jane transforms them into colourful and dramatic pieces of contemporary art.

Jane Trotter