As a result of last week’s inspiration, an abstract photo from Jos, there has been a lot of buzz about abstract photography. As such, we wanted to bring you more inspirational examples of some great abstract photography. And thus, we bring you an untitled photograph by Eva Schmidt, which is shown above.
Now to be fair, the abstract purists (one of the lesser known photography cults) will be placing my name on their list for blurring the boundary defining the abstract photography universe. I have been told that a true abstract photograph must not contain an identifiable subject. In this photograph, the subject appears to be a simple lamp – or at least the shadow of one. It is not my intent to annoy the purists. But I do believe that the lines are blurry and less defined. In the end, it matters naught because the result is an aesthetically pleasing photograph that borrows from the abstract universe as well as the traditional photography universe. These things are not worth debating.
So what we have here is an interesting composition composed of shape, line and pattern (the repetition in the shapes). Though we have enough information to define the source of the shadows, you’ll note that not one of them is complete. This forces the viewer to make such observations based on the whole image, and not just a single aspect of the photograph. It also forces our eyes to observe the entire photograph both independently and as a whole. If I were to speak of nothing more, this would already be considered a great shot. But there is more: The beauty is in the details.
Light – a key aspect of what we do as photographers. We use light, we expose for light. But it’s much more fun to play with light. At first glance the other day, I saw this as a simple pattern of three lamps in a line. After observing in greater detail, I suspect that this is really a case of a single subject with three different light sources, each progressively softer than the other. The difference in softness/hardness could be handled a number of ways. Either by using modifiers, the distance of the light source relative to the subject, or simply the angle of the shadow relative to the surface it is being cast upon. Alternatively, my original hunch could very well be correct. The same effect could be achieved with three subjects and a single light source. The difference in relative distance between the subject and the light source would also render one shadow softer than the other. Whatever the method, the result is a variation that is aesthetically appealing and intriguing. The variation in light establishes hierarchy and depth.
The texture across the photo was added in post processing. Specifically, it was a texture called Candlelight by Kim Deslandes. While trying to dissect how the shot was made, I must admit the texture was a source of a great deal of confusion (at least until I read the description – always read descriptions when analyzing works of others). Texture aside, it appears that there are two surfaces – a table top and a wall (the dark diagonal line appears to be a shadow cast by the table). What threw me off was the texture, which is fairly consistent across the image. Ideas stirred in my head about the possibility of shooting through vellum or perhaps I was looking at shadows cast upon a projection screen. But no, it was the texture.
I do not use textures much in my own works. It’s not to say that I don’t like them, I feel that textures and other post-processing techniques add a great deal to a photograph. This is one such example. Without the texture, I feel the background would be too smooth and the impact would not have been nearly as great. And so I feel that Eva’s use of the texture is commendable. But I would like to raise a key observation: Textures alter the perspective of a photograph, and thus they should be used with care. In other words, there are some textures that will not work with all photos, and one should be cognizant of that.
All in all, Eva’s photograph is an inspirational work for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the simplicity of the composition. In abstract works, simplicity is often the key, and Eva does that quite well here. Second is the fun play with light. The way the light is used has dramatically changed the end result in this photograph. There’s a lot to be learned from this photo in that regard. And finally, texture adds interest – a nice finishing touch to a potentially bland backdrop.