Abstract discoveries…


dish towelsI devoted the month of February to experimenting with abstract photography. Guided and inspired by the generous and talented Kim Manley Ort and accompanied by an enthusiastic group of kindred souls on Flickr, I challenged myself to see reality around me in a very different way.

Here are some of my key discoveries:

  • Abstract photography is a vehicle to get more in touch with your own instincts, emotions and passions. It removes the literal from your images. You don’t need to know what the subject is to like it. For example, I connect with the image above not because of what it is  —  dish towels, actually — but because of how it makes me feel: energized, empowered and part of the earth. The green, deep blue and orange are to me the elemental colours of fire, water, sky and earth.
  • Abstract photography is just plain fun. It is a doorway to joy. It gives you permission to play, to bend and break the rules, to follow your bliss and not worry about the result. Like a child with finger paints, sometimes you make a big mess — and other times you are unexpectedly delighted by a beautiful and meaningful image. It doesn’t really matter; it’s all good.
  • In the future, I think I’ll come back to abstract photography any time I’m in the creative doldrums, when I want to shake myself out of habitual and stale patterns. This secret antidote might just work for you too. Part of what freezes us up when we pick up the camera is a desire to make “good” or “popular” images, and we often judge ourselves against similar types of images made by others. But when we free ourselves to create something that is not at all recognizable, then we are liberated from judging it against criteria that are not our own. And since we’re also not so bound up by needing to achieve the perfect exposure, composition and framing, we are released to take more risks and experience the possibility of creating something new and different. Just that excitement alone can reinvigorate our photography. 
  • Abstract photography can also help you improve your “regular” photography. How is that? Making abstracts trains you to see more directly what lies at the base of any image — lines, shape, patterns, light, colour.  When the image is something you are familiar with, you can become distracted by your ideas and preconceived  notions of the thing, and your perceptions are not as pure as they might be. But when you remove the label from what is happening in the frame, you see only how light, line, shape and colour are dancing together. That is all. This heightened awareness can make for fresher and more exciting images, abstract or not.
  •  I commented in an earlier post that “one of the things I love the most about this form of photography is that it keeps revealing just how varied and mysterious the world really is when looked at through different eyes — there is so much more to see and enjoy than we usually let ourselves. And you don’t have to go far. It is astounding how many surprises you can find even in your own home — in the few feet around you.” (I doubt I would have seen the creative possibilities of light on dish towels before this course!)

Now, you definitely don’t need a course to play around with abstracts. You just need an open mind and a desire to try different things. Going really close up on familiar objects is one technique that can yield interesting abstracts. So are deliberately blurring your images and even adding camera movement (ICM) while you are blurring them. And if you are near water, even puddles, do try out abstract reflections. These were some of my favorite images this month.

But I would highly recommend taking Kim’s online course if abstract photography appeals to you at all. You will find her a wonderful catalyst to creativity. The course was a perfect balance of reading about abstract artists, techniques and ideas and real practice. The feedback from Kim and the other participants is always supportive and encouraging. And I found seeing such a wide diversity of abstract work emerging from the group to be exciting and inspiring. The course has started me — and many others — on a continuing journey that I know will deepen and change and keep me engaged for a long time to come.

Kim Manley Ort offers a wide range of equally exciting online courses as well. Why not sign up for her newsletter so you will be the first to know what she has coming up next?

14 thoughts on “Abstract discoveries…

  1. Lovely tones in the photo above. I feel that abstract images happen when we stop trying too hard. I was certainly more relaxed the second time around! However, I agree that it helps when we are able to actually see the abstracts in everyday things and this comes with practice.

  2. Love your thoughts on abstract photography. I took Kim’s class, too, and was fascinated. I have a hard time separating macro from abstract. They can be the same thing, but they’re also quite different.

  3. Your photographs are wonderful Sherry, but even they are eclipsed by your insights and your ability to express them in a way that is of benefit to us all. This post is yet another example of that prowess. Thank you.

  4. A very good synopsis of the class and of the subject Sherry. I love abstract and will really try harder to find the time to include it more in my everyday photography. I know when I went to the park this last week i made a point to find more reflections and abstracts int he water even with my iphonne. You are right I think we tend to do what people expect a lot of the times and not what we really like for ourselves. Love the image.

  5. You above photo is really beautiful…the colors blend so nice and the framing is outstanding..so many classes, so little time…You have done well to challenge yourself often.
    I haven’t really gotten to know Kim’s style yet…I’ve only taken the 50mm class which I haven’t done yet..but will do as soon as I finish preparing for my classes and execute them..
    I love visiting here because there is alway something fresh and new going on.
    Have a lovely night Sherry.

  6. Beautiful image, Sherry! You’re really so good at this. And I love the idea of revisiting the abstract when our creativity seems to wane. Excellent post!

  7. Beautiful image Sherry!! Today I took several abstract shots (ICM’s) of a magazine front that had nice colors. Will post soon. This is a superb writing of Kim’s class about all the elements and techniques we learned. I definitely want to take the class again, and also want to spend serious time reading the materials and studying the various processes. ICM is so fun isn’t it? Kim will love your post today – you could convince anyone to take the class with this! I enjoyed having you among the group, and a few other familiars, as well as new people. Everyone was so inspiring and supportive, as well as Kim. I love abstract and am excited to know how to make my own, and not be in the photography “box” of creating the same old things. Abstract is so freeing, and it is much more creative and individualized. Anyone can recreate a still or an outdoor scene, but no one else can recreate an exact photo abstract.

  8. Gorgeous image, Sherry. It glows with colour. As for your post, yes, yes, and yes again. The fun part of abstract photography pulls me back to it, and I couldn’t agree more about freeing you from feeling you have to create conventional images that have popular appeal. And of course, yes, Kim’s online courses are a great way to explore your own creativity. So glad you enjoyed your Abstract month.

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