Thursday, 19 July 2012

Photographic Abstraction

[see also my more recent post (Jan 2013) on this subject]
[see also my more recent post (March 2014) on this subject]

Let me try to define this term, for I use it a lot to describe what I do. First let's look at a couple of examples
Brutalist Architecture, softened (1)
This first image "Brutalist Architecture (1)" is a photograph that has been manipulated to create a special effect. I had imagined that effect when standing before the building (the Shakespeare Tower at The Barbican). I had imagined the architecture softened by adding some curvature to the very erect structure. 

I created the effect in the computer from an original photograph. The twist in the building is a simple geometric construction. It is something that is probably quite simple to produce in (for example) Photoshop.

I call this Photographic Abstraction because it was an idea that I had for an Abstract image that I realised by manipulating the Photograph. Originally, my idea was to do this to an image of the Shard, but my photographs of the Shard were not good enough. It's difficult to get a decent photograph of the Shard from the ground.
Brutalist Architecture, softened (2)
A second attempt  is shown as "Brutalist Architecture (2)". The same transformation, different parameters. Actually I tried many different parameters. These two came closest to realising my idea.

Rain Forest - I imagined The Forest being washed away in the rain.
"Rain Forest" is again a direct manipulation of a photograph. This time the idea is taken from Richter, having seen his squeegeed images at the Tate retrospective. I wanted to a similar kind of effect. 

I noticed Richter's images often suggested water so I looked for a set of trees that might look wet if squeegeed. This time the computer is used to scrape down across the photograph. 

It isn't sufficient to just create a multiple-exposure, I found. Rather I had to define a squeegee function based on a geometric transformation from physics. This final image was one of many that I tried. The one that most realised my abstract idea, of trees through rain.

The Church at Domburg (1)
For the "Church at Domburg (1)", I am trying to reproduce an image similar to an early Mondrian. This time the final image is in fact a vector file (although the above is of course a jpg derived from it). For the really curious the vector (pdf) file is here. You may need to give it some time to render as you zoom in, but if you do you will see that the circles are perfect.

The process for creating  "Church at Domburg (1)" has been to lay down a grid of 100 by 150 circles in a overlapping geometric arrangement. These circles have then been filled by colors derived from a photograph of the church. The colors have been manipulated to try to get close to Mondrian's colors (not there yet). The issue for us here is that the image is Abstract and it is based on a Photograph. The idea is the creative part. The Photographic Abstraction is the means to realise it.

The Church at Domburg (2)
To illustrate the parametric nature of photo-manipulation, when done by computer programs, take a look at "Church at Domburg (2)". This is created using the same process as "Church at Domburg (1)", followed in the same way, but this time with a grid of just 5 by 7 circles to accept the abstraction. This is not a detail from the earlier image, but the whole thing rendered with extreme granularity. If you try really hard, you can still see the church. 

Each of the images shown here is based on a photograph or a set of photographs. However, none of the images depicts reality. Each has been recreated in some way to accomplish an idea. The images abstract from reality, creating an impression not as seen, but as imagined.

That is why I refer to them as Photographic Abstraction.